TUSCALOOSA, Ala. (WIAT)- The Scotts Firefighter Combat Challenge is in Tuscaloosa, testing the grit, determination, and skills of the areas bravest. "The things firefighters do on the fire ground are extremely physical, and it takes a big toll on your body," says Tuscaloosa Fire Chief Alan Martin. "So, it's important for them to be physically fit."
I got to go through the obstacle course, so here's my play-by-play of the entire thing:
Obstacle #1 - Five story tower climb with a forty pound hose
This isn't hard...until the third story. About then your quads start to burn and your breath starts getting short. "You're looking at what you're going into," says Tuscaloosa firefighter Beau Gunter. "You go in guns a-blazing, grab your hose, and you go."
Obstacle #2 - Forty pound weight pull up five flights by a rope
In my opinion, this is the hardest obstacle. My forearms were burning halfway through it. Every time you put you move your hand to re-grab the rope, it feels like it's about to slip and fall all the way back down. The hand strength required for this is UN-BE-LIEVABLE. "At any point and time you may have to pull gear from a window to get to the top, and using your arms and your forearms to get stuff to you," explains Gunter.
Obstacle #3 - The Kaiser Machine
Wow. This is a doozy. You have a nine pound mallet and use it to whack a 165lb metal slab five feet. It takes amazing technique to be efficient...oh yeah, and strong shoulders! Gunter explains that this drill simulates using an axe to break through a door, or tear a hole in a roof for ventilation.
Obstacle #4 - Cone run
To re-enact running between the fire ground and the truck, contestants must zig zag between a field of cones. This is somewhat of a breather for me. It doesn't last long.
Obstacle #5 - Fire hose drag to simulated fire
Great. So I just ran about fifty yards, only to turn around and run BACK...this time with a fire hose! "At this point in time, you're hypoxic, there's a lack of oxygen to your brain," says Gunter. "You're having to think just like working on a fire scene." Once you make the trek back, you burst through a set of swinging doors and aim the hose at a picture of a fire and spray away. I'm surprisingly accurate with this!
Obstacle #6 - Rescue Randy
This guy. He's easily the most unpopular guy on the entire property. Rescue Randy is a 175lb dummy set-up in the prone position. For several of the bigger firefighters this is still a challenge. It's nearly impossible for a 155lb reporter. My quads are burning, my back feels like it's got steak knives sticking out of every inch, and my forearms are still numb from Obstacle #2. I make it about thirty yards before I hit a serious wall. That's when I discovered the true meaning of being a firefighter. Two contestants who were preparing for their rounds hopped the fence and helped me get ol' Randy across the finish line. "When you see another brother firefighter, and he needs help, that's what we're here for: to cover each others back and help another firefighter," says Gunter.
My final time (with assistance) was just under six minutes, three times what the real guys do it in. I have never...ever...ever been so tired! If you want to check out the action for yourself, they'll be back in action tomorrow morning at 8:00am. The course is behind University Mall in Tuscaloosa. I don't recommend trying it! (Actually I do!)
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