By Andrew Edwards
Being a firefighter provides its’ own unique challenges and opportunities, but perhaps the most grueling aspect comes from an unlikely event – the World Combat Championship.
Make no mistake, the competition is a fun event for the public and firefighters alike, but that doesn’t mean it’s not a difficult experience for those who are participating.
This year, the world championship comes to Montgomery for the fourth time. It will be host to over 14 different countries, many of which are chasing the Montgomery Relay Team, who have won the relay challenge four out the last five years.
The challenge that the competitors must face is no easy task. In the morning hours of the competition, the format is set up in a 1v1 setting. One firefighter is on the ‘blue’ side of the course while the other is on the ‘red’ side. Each competitor has to race through the obstacle course side by side in an effort to race the finish line first. Sounds easy, right?
Each competitor must do each individual challenge wearing full gear – mask, oxygen tank and all. This gear can add up to an extra 40 pounds of weight for the competitors, and is worn to simulate the real life demands of the job.
After the horn sounds, each firefighter must climb up six flights of stairs while carrying a weight on their back. After they reach the top, they must hoist up a 40-pound weight before running all the way back down the stairs.
Here, the Kaiser Barrier awaits the challengers. This is a large block that they must hammer, and is supposed to simulate forcible entry into a burning home or building.
But there’s no time to rest.
Each competitor must then run down the entirety of the course in a serpentine motion around several different fire hydrants before reaching a large blue or red hose. They must then drag the hose all the way back up the course before shooting it into a barrier.
The final challenge is perhaps the most difficult.
Each firefighter must go back to the original staring position and grab the ‘rescue randy’ doll. This is a 175 lb dummy that the challengers drag all the way down the course, and must fully be taken across the finish line for the timer to stop.
The time for the individual portion of the competition allows for those that reach a certain time to be inducted into the “Lion’s Den”, which recognizes those who are at the top of the sport. The time vary based on age and sex.
The Relay competition essentially works the same way as the individual challenge, except one competitor will only complete one part of the course before tagging out and allowing their teammate to complete the next section.
Josh Clemons, Montgomery Firefighter and six-time competitor at the world tournament, knows the vigorous training that goes into the world competition preparation.
“A lot of us have to do cross-fit type workouts, and at the station we set up different obstacles that mimic some of the movements that we do our here. We do a strength workout, and after that a high intensity workout where we wear mask. We want to have the same feeling that we’re going to get when we run the course,” Clemons said.
The timeline for the training usually starts many months before the competition even begins.
“We usually start lifting heavy after the season is over, which is around April. I try to gain at least 20-25 pounds of muscle and then around August I start adding more cardio. We do a few competitions in the Summer, then we have nationals and Worlds,” Clemons added.
Through three days, the Montgomery Fire Department Rescue Team Blue is ranked first as a department team. The Prattville Fire Team is ranked tenth.
The tournament will continue through Saturday, with the last two days being used as final rounds.
The competition is free to the public and is held in the parking lot at the intersection of Tallapoosa and Commerce Street in downtown Montgomery.
For more information, check out firefighterchallenge.com