Firefighters around the world have sworn to protect and save lives, but this week the Montgomery Fire Department, will also be trying to protect its title from the best firefighters in the world who are descending on Montgomery, Alabama.
The Montgomery Fire Department will defend its world title as well as host this year’s Scott Firefighter Combat World Challenge XXIV in downtown Monday through Saturday, inviting hundreds of teams from around the globe to compete for the coveted Lion Trophy – but first they must run the course in less than two minutes.
Along with ESPN coverage and more than 2,000 visitors coming from all over to Montgomery to watch or compete, hosting Worlds is a huge event for the city and the week of festivities is expected to bring in $1 million in revenue.
Previously, Worlds has been held in Las Vegas and Myrtle Beach, South Carolina.
The estimated revenue comes from attendees and spectators’ daily spending for hotels, food and gas as well as the media impressions garnered by the ESPN 3 broadcast and worldwide live streaming that will be made available throughout the entire competition, said Meg Lewis, director of tourism and special projects for the Montgomery Area Chamber of Commerce.
“There’s no other event in recent history in Montgomery that truly compares to this, given that it is a world championship event drawing participants from places like Egypt, New Zealand, Kuwait, Germany and more as well as cities all over the U.S.,” Lewis said.
ESPN will cover the competition live at the event course located at the Embassy Suites parking lot. The Montgomery Advertiser will have a team, Hot off the Presses, following the action, which will run the course with other community teams on Saturday.
The group of very fit Montgomery men and woman – the world’s fittest in their profession – exchanged good-humored jabs, poked fun, and joked around at Fire Station 5 earlier this month before they left for Nationals in Texas.
All the while, they challenged each other to push harder than they’ve ever done before.
It was like watching a family of all different backgrounds – rookies and veterans alike, bonded together by one unified force whether they fought side by side, or against a blazing fire.
Don’t let their jovial exteriors fool you. They earned the title of being called the fastest, fittest and strongest firefighters in the world last year by winning first place in the Scott Firefighter Combat Challenge World Challenge XXIII Phoenix, a global test for professional firefighters.
They won after joining the competition in 2010.
Last year, Montgomery’s firefighters broke the previous world record set in 2010 with a new time of 1:07.60. They broke it again a few hours later with a time of 1:01.22. In full, 50-pound gear.
While at Nationals earlier this month, Montgomery’s Blue Team won second place and the Red Team placed third. They will check in tonight and will compete against teams from Germany, Australia, France, New Zealand, Brazil, Canada, the United Kingdom and countless others from across the U.S. Monday through Thursday in wildcard playoffs.
With each heat, they will fight for a spot in the final relay that will determine this year’s World’s Challenge XXIV champion.
Friday and Saturday will begin with opening ceremonies featuring the final competitors, with individual and team championships held Friday, and tandem and relay championships held Saturday.
Touted as the “toughest two minutes in sports,” the Scott Firefighter Combat Challenge is not just for fun. It is a test of skill, strength, speed and grit and it is the physical fitness test all firefighters must take each year in order to stay with their department.
The Montgomery Fire Department has proven its elite level of fitness time and time again, after winning Worlds, breaking the previous world record and winning at the national level several years in a row.
It is an essential function of what firefighters must do on a daily basis and the bout of friendly competition benefits communities worldwide, said Montgomery Fire Chief Milford Jordan.
“Firefighting is hard, physically demanding work in which every second counts,” Jordan said. “As firefighters, as we improve in fitness and health, we improve the quality of our service to the public.”
The rigorous training keeps the Montgomery Fire Department rated ISO Class 1, the highest ISO rating a city can achieve and the only department in the state to have it.
“Our exercise program is enough in itself. We have to do that once a year, every year as a job task analysis, that lets the public know and the Fire Department that we can all do our jobs,” said District Fire Chief Jonathan Stuart, who is the team captain and veteran participant for the Montgomery team.
It’s a race against the clock. Within that time, teams must complete five events – the high-rise 45-pound pack carry, a hose hoist, a forcible entry, a hose advance and a 175-pound victim rescue that competitors must complete wearing firefighter suits and masks.
Each event simulates the necessary steps to combat a structure fire and save a life – hoisting a hose pack over one shoulder, gripping a stair rail and running up flights of stairs (sometimes five flights) to reach the top, pulling a hose pack to the top of the building with your bare hands, running, barging through doors and spraying water, forcing your way into a barricaded or locked entry point and lastly, carrying an adult victim several yards to safety.
Every firefighter is tested on these components annually. Montgomery firefighters must complete the test in October, the same month as the competition, and must do it within nine minutes.
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