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Academy hosts firefighter combat challenge

Academy firefighter Bill Gates practices moving a 150 lb. weight on the Keiser sled with a mallet, while fellow firefighter Anthony "Tank" McMurty times him and Senior Airman Tyler Moran observes.  Photo by Johnny Wilson

Academy firefighter Bill Gates practices moving a 150 lb. weight on the Keiser sled with a mallet, while fellow firefighter Anthony

By John Van Winkle

Academy Public Affairs


The Academy Fire Department will defend its three world championships at the Rumble in the Rockies, and the public is invited to attend.

The Rumble in the Rockies is a regional firefighter combat challenge competition,  June 19-20 at Falcon Stadium.  The firefighter combat challenge puts firefighters through their paces practicing their real-world firefighting skills against the clock, and has been called “the toughest two minutes in sports” by ESPN. 

The Academy started participating in the firefighter combat challenge in 2001.  The experience level and interest level in the competition here has grown over the years, turning the Academy Fire Department into a national power in this firefighting competition. 

In 2009, the Academy won gold medals with its over 40 relay team, ladies tandem and ladies relay team, and silver medals with the over-40 relay team and the under-40 team.

 “For the 2010 regionals, I’m hoping for the same kind of turnout from our department that we had last year,” said Pat Kraft, team captain.

“I know the interest level’s really high. There’s two or three relay teams that are actually starting to assemble atn train. When it’s all said and done, I’m looking at 5-10 tandems and probably an additional 3-4 relay teams.

That will amount to about half of the Academy Fire Department competing at the regionals again this year.  “We’ll be moving people around to cover trucks and give everyone an opportunity to run like last year,” added Kraft.

The Firefighter Combat Challenge is in its 19th year. 

“The firefighter combat challenge started in a lab with a FEMA study,” said Dr. Paul Davis, event founder. That Federal Emergency Management Agency study looked at methods to train firefighters to better battle a working fire, which resulted in the challenge’s five events.

“Competitors start the race wearing the same gear they’d wear fighting a fire, which is about 60 pounds of equipment,” said Doctor Davis. Firefighters climb a five story tower carrying a 42-pound fire hose, then hoist another a rope weighted by a 42-pound fire hose up five stories, while leaning over the top of the tower.  Next, they race down the tower and pound a 160-pound slab of steel with a mallet, to move the slab 5 feet, to simulate breaking a hole in a roof or door.  Next, they weave 100 feet to grab a firehose and drag it 75 to hit a volleyball-sized target with water.

“Then comes the killer event that we call the tractor pull, which is taking the dummy – Rescue Randy, weighing 175 pounds – and dragging him backwards 75 feet to safety at the end of the course,” said Doctor Davis.

But competitors are really racing against the clock.  A two-minute time finishing the course gets an individual to the world competition.

“We have some people finish this is less than 90 seconds.  That’s insane,” said Doctor Davis.

Firefighters can compete in several categories – as individuals, in teams of five, in relay teams and tandems.  Firefighters who complete the entire course in two minutes or less will qualify individually for the world nationals. Teams must have three of their five members finish with a combined time of less than seven minutes to qualify their team to advance.  Relay teams and tandems compete in a single run, clocking a single time which will determine if they advance to the next level of competition.

Firefighters from the Academy, surrounding communities and adjacent states will meet at Falcon Stadium this weekend to practice their firefighting skills, aiming to improve their skills and earn a spot at the World Firefighter Combat Challenge, Nov. 8-13 in Myrtle Beach, S.C.

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