Pittsfield Fire Department to Host National Firefighter Challenge
PITTSFIELD, Mass. — The Pittsfield Fire Department and other Berkshire County firefighters will again test their endurance locally in the national Firefighter Combat Challenge.
The combat challenge is an obstacle course designed to test first responders as they perform strenuous tasks that come into play at the scene of a fire. At the same time, it demonstrates the intensity of the profession's physical demands to the public.
Wearing full bunker gear and Scott Air-Pak breathing apparatuses, competitors will race as they re-enact the physical demands of real-life firefighting by performing a series of duties.
"We call it the toughest two minutes in sports, it takes an average firefighter between two minutes and 30 seconds to about four minutes to finish it," Deputy Chief Dan Garner said.
"Some of the very fast firefighters can do it under two minutes, the super-fast ones can do it in under a minute and 30 seconds."
Competitors will have to climb a five-story tower carrying a 45-pound hose pack, hoist a 42-pound hose pack from the ground, chop a 160-pound I-beam to move it 5 feet, drag charged hoses and a life-sized, 175-pound "victim" 100 feet as they race against themselves and their opponents and the clock.
The challenge can be done as individual participation, in teams of three to five firefighters from the same department, in two-person tandems, and in relays with three to five team members.
This year's event will take place Sept. 16-18 at Berkshire Crossing (555 Hubbard Ave.) It is a family-friendly affair sponsored by Berkshire Money Management and is free to watch.
The Pittsfield Fire Department will have its firefighters competing as well members of other Berkshire County departments. The Berkshire County Special Response Team will challenge PFD in an exhibition relay.
Retired firefighters are also welcome to join the competition.
"Ideally, I'd love to have 300 firefighters compete over the two days," Garner said.
For the little ones, there will be a scaled-down version of the event called the Greylock Federal Credit Union Kid's Crawl, Drag, and Squirt Course that is sponsored by the bank. It will be free to kids ages 4-12.
There will also be food trucks, fire safety demonstrations, and a demonstration from Eversource.
This is the PFD's second time hosting the challenge. It came to Pittsfield first in 2019, when it attracted firefighters from all surrounding communities and had more than 1,000 attendees throughout the two days.
The challenge circuit sponsored by 3M Scott Fire & Safety is in its 30th season. It is a traveling caravan that consists of around three 18-wheelers — one containing a five-story scaffold tower — support staff, and some dedicated fans.
"It started out 30 years ago, it was created by this doctor in Maryland at the University of Maryland, they were coming up with criteria for the firefighter's exam and they came up with the five-station agility assessment," Garner explained.
"And they kind of implemented it in the Washington, D.C., area for the departments out there to see how it was working, and they found that the firefighters were actually becoming pretty competitive with each other to try and beat each other's time and stuff, so what they ended up doing was the doctor that invented it saw an idea there and he created the Scott Firefighter Combat Challenge. The rest is history."
They typically travel to 20-25 United States locations in a year, even making it Alaska.
Annually, the challenge attracts hundreds of U.S. and Canadian fire departments and is expanding to countries around the world including New Zealand, Poland, Germany, Argentina, Chile, Canada, Dubai, Slovenia, France, and South Africa.
Lenco Rescue Vehicles and Berkshire Bank are also sponsoring the challenge. Garner said the combination of support from local organizations is what made the event possible.
The individual races will be held Friday, Sept. 17, starting at 5 p.m. The tandem and relay races will be held Saturday, Sept. 18, starting at 10:30 a.m.
More information can be found about the challenge course, registration, and rules at www.firefighterchallenge.com
For more information about the Pittsfield event, email Dan Garner at dgarner@cityofpittsfield or call 413-448-9754.