Irish fire calendar Mr July

THE competition is truly hotting up with very little chance of it being extinguished.

As Christmas approaches, not one but two firefighter calendars are blazing a trail to be the best seller of 2011.

But neither producer of either calendar was aware of the other's existence despite similar campaigns and websites.

The burning question now is: why are there two when one would do?

"We seem to have been piggybacked by someone who we don't know much about," joked Dublin airport fireman Brian Dempsey.

His 'Irish Fire Calendars' in aid of Beaumont hospital have been selling in various outlets including Eason's at Dublin airport and Calendar Clubs around Ireland. "Our intention is just to sell as many as we can," he said.

The Irish Fire Calendars has been reduced in price this year to €5. "People need a break," Dempsey said, referring to the price drop. "Ten euro this year is a lot more than it was two years ago."

Planning for the Beaumont calendars began some months ago. "We had a photo shoot done in mid October and have been selling them now for the last
fortnight," said Dempsey.

Meanwhile, the not too dissimilarly named 'Irish Fire Calendar' outfit has started selling its version of the raunchy firemen calendar for the third year running.

Retired fireman Tom Kelly explained that his product was the result of a national competition open to firemen nationwide who were willing to flash a bit of flesh.

"We got people to apply to us," he said. "They sent us photos on the phone. Some were a bit flat-chested or full in the belly."

Since its humble beginnings in 2007, the charity calendar has raised more than €350,000 for a combination of beneficiaries including the National Council for the Blind, Cystic Fibrosis Ireland and Arc.

But charity is often the first to feel the pinch in times of austerity and this year hasn't been so kind.

"It's fairly slow so far. The recession is biting," said Kelly, who maintains his calendar is the original of the species.

"We've been running this from 2007 so someone else must have thought it was a good idea," he said.