Firefighters from all over the country have come to Tyler this weekend to compete in the 10th annual Brookshire’s Firefighter Combat Challenge.
After a few rounds of competition on Friday, more than 100 firefighters will continue to show what they’ve got in the regional competition at the Broadway Square Mall today. Brookshire’s Grocery Company sponsors the competition.
Participants included firefighters from agencies at Tyler; Sheppard Air Force Base; Central Arkansas; Georgetown; Farmers Branch; Irving; Montgomery; Leander; Rapid City, South Dakota; Tuscaloosa, Alabama; McKinney and Forney.
During the event, firefighters compete by carrying a 40-pound fire hose up a four-story tower, hoist a roll of fire hose up to the top of the tower, run back down the flights of stairs, use a sledge hammer to simulate making entry into a home, run a serpentine course, pull a full- charged fire hose and finish by dragging a 180-pound dummy.
Holli Conley, Tyler Convention and Visitor’s Bureau vice president of marketing, said the activities are set to begin at 10 a.m. Saturday.
This is the 10th competition hosted in Tyler, and event organizers say Tyler is the longest-running site for the competition in the company’s history.
Tyler teams have won both national and world titles in individual and team efforts in past years.
Conley said the event drew more than 2,000 spectators in 2014. Last year, Tyler hosted the National Championships, so the crowd is expected to be somewhat smaller this year. This year also marks a change in date - the event has traditionally been held in October.
The challenge began in 1976 in Montgomery County, Maryland.
“This was originally designed as a course to test (firefighters’) physical ability for their job, then they decided to make it into a race for fun,” Ms. Conley said.
In 1991, the course began to spread nationwide.
“This is a benchmark for them. They can see their time and see if they qualify for nationals or world,” Ms. Conley said. “It’s great to bring the kids out to see and meet the firefighters and for the community to see what the firefighters do on a daily basis, as well as their camaraderie.”
Tyler Fire Department Chief Tim Johnson reiterated the importance of the camaraderie the games bring. He said they allow his firefighters to bond with their peers from all over the nation.
“We have an over-40 team here in Tyler that went to Lake Charles and won first place down there,” Johnson said.
Johnson said a special race will be run at 9:30 a.m., in honor of Travis Mulligan, a Tyler firefighter who died of a sudden illness on May 30.
“Firefighters put on their gear and get ready to go into all different kinds of circumstances,” Johnson said. “It’s what we do, 24 hours a day, we’re ready to go and this just gives them a platform to get out there and show that.”
The firefighters with the best times will go on to compete in the nationals, set to take place Aug. 29 and 30 in Arlington.
For more information, visit firefighterchallenge.com
Kenneth Dean contributed to this report.