Teams from all over the world compete in the challenge.
PITTSFIELD, Mass. — Firefighters from all over will swarm Pittsfield next weekend to test their skills against each other.
The Firefighter Combat Challenge is an obstacle course that designed to test firefighters on different tasks they've had to accomplish immediately on the scene of a fire — whether than be rolling out a hose or carrying a victim.
Wearing full gear the firefighters will race each other up a five-story tower with a hose, hoist hoses from the ground, chop I-beams, drag hoses, and carry a 175-pound "victim" 100 feet.
"It's a really good test of fitness and we do it in full personal protective ensemble," said Deputy Chief Daniel Garner.
The entire race will be free for the public to watch as firefighters from all over the country and Canada take on the course. And there will be a kid's course for children to race on their own, and food trucks and other demonstrations.
"I'm looking forward to a great family event for the weekend," Garner said. "It's the first time our but I think it is going to be awesome. Berkshire County has never seen anything like this."
Dubbed "the toughest two minutes in sports" there are 3M Scott Firefighter Combat Challenges held throughout the year in various regions of the country. The organization takes the entire course on the road with it, sets up, and the firefighters compete. There are also national and world title competitions.
Teams from Pittsfield have been racing in the events for a number of years now. When the challenge was first created in the early 1990s, Pittsfield had a team. It went dormant at some point until Garner found an old simulator in storage and asked what it was about. That intrigued him and they put together a new team.
"We kind of got beat up a bit. In 2010, we got competitive with it," Garner said.
Teams from Pittsfield travel now to compete in the events but Garner has always wanted to bring it here. He was talking about it one day with an official from Lenco and the company agreed to sponsor it.
"Once they came on board, it helped legitimize the event," Garner said.
Berkshire Bank then joined as a sponsor and Greylock Federal Credit Union agreed to sponsor the children's course, in which area children will be able to run for free.
The challenge will be at Berkshire Crossing starting Friday, June 14, at 5 p.m. when individual races will be held.
On Saturday, June 15, at 9:30 a.m., the Berkshire County Special Response Team is challenging local firefighters and the corporate sponsors will be competing against each other. At 11 a.m., the relay races and tandem races will begin.
Garner said he doesn't know how many teams will enter — and registration for any firefighters active, retired, volunteer or paid remains open. Garner said he expects a number of teams from the area to participate as well as teams from elsewhere — including the former world champion team from Canada and the former champion team from Alabama.
"I would love between 10 and 20 teams," Garner said, adding that there may be 70 individual competitors.
And with the home-field advantage, Garner is putting a little pressure on himself.
"I hope to place in the top three," he said.
The challenge originated in Baltimore in the 1970s when departments were looking to physically test the firefighters. That's when an obstacle type course was developed.
"They were looking for what they could do for physical testing that would simulate what happens on a fire scene," Garner said.
And the competitive nature came out as firefighters began racing each other through the course and challenging each other's times. Eventually, it evolved and became the racing circuit — and competition grew even more as now there are firefighters who have train often and even have their own racing firefighter gear.
"This is a two-minute race and it's pretty taxing," Garner said.
This will be the first time the challenge comes to Pittsfield but Garner hopes it won't be the last.
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