Daily Progress, Jacksonville, TX

October 8, 2013

Firefighter Challenge: 'It's the toughest two minutes in sports'

Ben Tinsley
Jacksonville Daily Progress

TYLER —  It's a rough competition – even for Jacksonville's bravest. For any seasoned firefighter, really.

A five-story tower climb. A 75-foot hose haul. Dragging a 175-pound dummy. All while wearing an air pack, helmet and boots.

The Scott Firefighter Combat Challenge – held in Tyler over the weekend – isn't for the faint of heart, as four contestants from the Jacksonville Fire Department can tell you.

“They say it's the toughest two minutes in sports – that's the firefighter combat challenge slogan,” said Dan Parsons, 39, a Jacksonville firefighter. “It's tough. The guys who win it train for it all year round and that's pretty much all they do.”

The challenge was held over the weekend this year at Broadway Square Mall in Tyler. This year, Jacksonville's four participating firefighters did not advance to the national competition in Las Vegas because they were six seconds over the mandated completion time.

But still? Six seconds is pretty good considering the JFD competitors are limited to borrowing practice time on Tyler's competition course, officials said.

Jacksonville Fire Department Chief Paul White said all firefighters competed in full gear – including air pack, helmet and boots. Carrying hose on the shoulder and dragging that 175-pound dummy. All in two minutes or under.

Six seconds over is not bad at all, the chief said.

In terms of the sheer amount of work that has to be done, this physical endurance competition appears almost insurmountable from the outside. It has been said that NFL football players tried it many years ago and had a rough time.

Firefighters competed in a five-evolution event, which includes a five-story tower climb with high-rise pack, hose hoist, forcible entry, hose advance, and victim rescue.

Competitions included individual, team, tandem, and relay. Firefighters vied for times, points, and placement in the Scott Firefighter Combat Challenge World Challenge, which will be in Las Vegas later in October. This past weekend's event attracted competitors as far away as Nebraska and South Dakota.

Parsons, who has been with the Jacksonville department the past ten years said he and firefighters Jeremy Spencer and Drake Wilson have participated each of the three years they have been in the competition. Newcomer Dillon Wenberg was new to the group this year.

“Really, we're proud of how we did,” Parsons said.