Sun Sentinel.com

County firefighters take the heat in Combat Challenge

By Nicole T. Lesson
Staff Writer
Posted May 22 2005


Firefighters are used to battling the heat of a fire but Saturday they were fighting the outdoor high temperatures at the Firefighters Combat Challenge.

So just how are the two heats different?

"In a fire, your life is on the line. Here you can stop, but you won't," said Delray Beach Firefighter/Paramedic Tommie Osborn, 41, who won the over-40 division at the Deerfield Beach event. "This helps keep you in shape. It's a lot of fun and keeps you on top of your skills."

Teams from Palm Beach County, Delray Beach, Boca Raton and Riviera Beach fire-rescue departments were among the competitors.

The firefighting competition was part of a three-day Beach Blowout that showcased businesses with products and services that can be used for hurricane awareness and emergency situations in the aftermath of storms. There also was a lifeguard competition, triathlon, live music and rescue demonstrations.

On Saturday, 126 of the bravest from Palm Beach and Broward counties and other parts of the state and nation suited up in more than 60 pounds of bunker gear each and performed firefighting tasks on a timed-course in front of the crowd.

One event started with the sound of the alarm that signaled firefighters to take off with a 45-pound hose on their shoulders and climb five stories. They dropped the first hose and then pulled hand-over-hand a rolled-up, 45-pound hose over the tower's edge.

Then it was back down the five flights of stairs to hit a steel beam with a sledgehammer until it moved six feet.

Firefighters then ran a small obstacle course around fire hydrants, grabbed a water-filled hose, dragged it 75 feet and hit a target with the water. Finally, they picked up a 175-pound dummy and dragged it 100 feet across the finish line.

It was the first competition for Jenelle Sckolnik of Boca Raton, who came to watch her friend Andrew Close take on the challenge.

"Go Andy!" Sckolnik screamed over and over as he took on each task. "I don't know how they do it in such harsh heat. I wouldn't be able to make it up the second ladder. It's amazing. It goes to show you what they can do."

Eight years ago, the first Beach Blowout was organized by Ron Ruback, hazard-mitigation coordinator for Deerfield Beach Fire-Rescue.

"It started out as a one-day event with vendors kicking off hurricane season," said Ruback. "I didn't think it would get this big."

Nicole T. Lesson can be reached at nlesson@sun-sentinel.com or 954-385-7920.