(Rick Hickman/American Press)
Last Modified: Sunday, May 10, 2015 1:40 PM
At first glance, Saturday’s Scott Firefighter Combat Challenge looked like the set of a big-budget action film.
Firefighters could be seen sprinting up flights of stairs, pushing their way through doors to spray hoses on makeshift fires, slamming down sledgehammers and dragging lifelike dummies to safety — and it was all in the name of friendly competition.
The event was one of many taking place at the Civic Center during Contraband Days over the weekend. The firefighter challenge, which has been featured on ESPN over the last 12 years, regularly hosts competitors from across the country. The idea behind the competition is to encourage firefighter fitness and demonstrate the profession’s rigors to public audiences. In the challenge, participants compete in full bunker gear as they perform five tasks: climbing a five-story tower, hoisting gear, swinging a sledgehammer, dragging hoses, and rescuing a life-sized 165-pound dummy.
On the tower portion of the race, the firefighters had to sprint up the flights of stairs while carrying 42 pounds of equipment. While at the top of the tower, the firefighters would have to pull up a roll of large-diameter hose using rope, which in total also weighed 42 pounds.
The forcible-entry challenge in the race consisted of the competitors using a sledgehammer to move a 160-pound sled a horizontal distance of 5 feet. Each individual would then navigate 75 feet of the course with a charged hose before pushing through a door and spraying a target with water. The dummy the firefighters would have to carry to safety at the end of the race weighed 165 pounds, with an additional 10 pounds of clothing. The competitors had to drag the dummy more than 100 feet to the finish line.
Todd Shelton was the day’s course official. For the better part of the morning, he explained the rules to the competitors and watched closely as they sprinted through each set of obstacles. He took a break between races to describe what the event means for each firefighter participating.
“Really, it’s all about the spirit of competition,” he said. “And bragging rights. That’s a big part of it.”
The Lake Charles Fire Department’s team completed its first race early on in the day’s competition. By noon, the team was waiting to get back into action. Johnny Watkins was one of the team members. Watkins said he was familiar with the competition after having competed multiple times over the years. He said the actual race is always harder than it looks.
“You have to have stamina to be good at this. You can’t just be strong and think you’ll get by,” Watkins said. “You have to be all-around pretty fit.”
Watkins said the team’s first race went well, but they were hoping to improve on the performance in the second race. Leading up to the competition, he said the team had to take a creative approach to training.
“We try to re-create the tasks in the weight room,” he said. “It gives you a way to prepare yourself for actually being out here and doing all of this.”