Combat challenge puts firefighting skills to the test - KWWL - Eastern Iowa Breaking News, Weather, Closings

Combat challenge puts firefighting skills to the test

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CEDAR RAPIDS (KWWL) -

Firefighters are often tasked with putting their lives in danger to protect property and save lives.  To keep in top physical form, some firefighters compete in combat challenges.  Sunday, a regional qualifying firefighting competition was held in Cedar Rapids for the first time.

The firefighter combat challenge is deemed "the toughest two minutes in sports".  And after watching the contest for a few minutes, it's easy to see why.  Each of the firefighters undergoes extensive training to complete the tasks on the challenge course.

"The guys are pretty good about keeping me challenged and making sure we do pull ups and group workouts every now and then," said competitor Brenda Dankert with the Grand Island, Neb. Fire Department.

Attaining a high level of physical fitness is exactly why the firefighter combat challenge was started 20 years ago.  After all, the leading cause of death among firefighters is heart failure.

"The healthier that your firefighter is, the better prepared they are going to be when it comes to protecting personal property and saving lives," said Leslie Yancey, with On Target Challenge, Inc.

And make no mistake, the firefighter combat challenge is a grueling form of conditioning.  Competitors race up a five-story tower carrying a fire hose, then hoist up a rolled line after reaching the top.  Once they run back down, firefighters push a 160-pound Keiser sled five feet.  To finish, competitors haul a 175-pound rescue dummy over 100 feet.  Speed counts, but training for a competition like this can really pay off at a fire scene.

"To be able to do my job and not get tired, and to keep going, maybe do the work of 2 or 3, is very helpful," said competitor Shane Farmer with the Cedar Falls Fire Department.

So long after the challenge is over, the competitors will be well equipped to meet the physical demands of firefighting.

Top finishers from Sunday's contest can advance to the World Firefighter Combat Challenge this November in South Carolina.  Jerry Kleidosty of Omaha won the Individual competition and the Over 40 competition while teams from Whiteman Air Force Base won the Relay and Tandem competitions.

For more information, click here.

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