Montgomery Firefighters Conquer Combat Challenge


By Heather VacLav

The Firefighter Combat Challenge is called the “toughest two minutes”, and Montgomery's Firefighters are some of the toughest in the nation.

Top firefighters from around the country are in Montgomery this weekend competing in the Firefighter Combat Challenge. Friday night 52 firefighters ran the challenge course solo, nearly half from Montgomery.

“Don't pass out, don't drop the dummy and don't make mistakes,” said District Chief Ronnie Bozeman Jr. with the Montgomery Fire Dept. Bozeman has been a member in the team competition, which starts Saturday, but never by himself.

“My thought was the finish line, that’s where I was thinking the whole time, just let me reach the finish line,” Bozeman said with beads of sweat running down his face after completing the course in 2:36, beating the past chief’s record.

Just as they would gear up for the real deal, the men and women treated the challenge as they would in the field, including everything from the obstacles to the gear.

Firefighters had to complete five tasks that simulated real-life scenarios in the field while wearing firefighter rescue clothing and an air tank with running air. Firefighters had to climb stairs with hoses, simulate chopping with an axe with a sledgehammer, dance around obstacles, spray a hose on target and finally rescue a 175-dummy victim.

“It’s very common that we have to run back to the fire truck, grab equipment and bring it back to the fire scene,” said Assistant Chief Kelly Gordon with the Montgomery Fire Department.

Bozeman says the challenge simulates the physical aspects of firefighters jobs. “Your first 5 or 10 minutes in the house fire is the worst,” he said, “You're in there doing all these things, your heart rate goes up, you gotta be able to pace yourself and control your breathing.”

“When you get on the roof when you actually use an axe and have to cut through the roof, that’s mimicking what we have to do in the fire,” Gordon said.

It’s a reality friends and family of firefighters know all too well, as they watched anxiously in the crowd. “It’s a lot more dangerous in a true house fire,” said Mandy Baker. Baker’s husband, Montgomery firefighter Jake Baker has won the Combat Challenge in both events the past year. “This just kind of represents the physical aspect of it, so it’s a good representation, but it’s not nearly the same,” Mandy Baker said.

Assistant Chief Gordon says the most important, and last leg of the challenge is rescuing people. “When we find a victim, that is just weight that is lying on the floor or wherever it is at and we have to grab them and pull them out,” he said.

Saturday the Combat Challenge continues with the relay team running the same course. The event is not limited to the competition, families are also invited to bring the kids to ride around in fire trucks, meet Montgomery's firefighters and learn about fire safety.

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