Creator of Firefighter Combat Challenge, Dr. Paul Davis, Dies

May 21, 2024
Dr. Paul Davis dedicated his life to promoting the firefighter fitness challenge that ESPN coined "the toughest two minutes in sports."

The creator of the Firefighter Combat Challenge – Dr. Paul O. Davis – has died.

He was 78.

The Firefighter Combat Challenge, established in 1991, is a timed course that involves skills that crews would face any day on the fireground.

In a 2021 interview with 3M, Davis explained: “In its infancy, the Challenge was pretty much a gross force kind of event. No style points here. Big, heavy objects, just like the fireground. But, gradually the science of ergonomics and physics began to appear. And with it came the sharing of intelligence across the entire spectrum of athletes. From the top-down, firefighters began to help each other without regard for geography or order of finish.

He continued: “Our older (40 and up) competitors. They can outperform guys 20 years their junior. We did a statistical analysis of the top times and averages across the entire span of competitors. We took the last 20,000 times. The lines are almost flat from 18 year olds until the 60s.

The crowd goes crazy when they see these outstanding male and female athletes running the times they do. It’s these “elder statesmen” of the fire service who are setting an amazing example of deferred obsolesce.”

Getting ESPN to broadcast the event three years after it was created sparked interest around the world.

Their description as the “toughest two minutes in sports,” was quickly adopted.

Retired Mesa Fire Chief Dennis Compton remembered Davis as a fitness and health champion for firefighters who dedicated his life to that mission.

“Paul knew firefighters needed to be fit to do their jobs. He promoted the challenge as a competition not to determine who was or was not qualified to be a firefighter…”

Compton said Davis’s message that he shared with firefighters in Phoenix was well received.

Funeral arrangements have not been relased. 

About the Author

Susan Nicol | News Editor

Susan Nicol is the news editor for She is a life member and active with the Brunswick Volunteer Ambulance & Rescue Company, Oxford Fire Company and Brunswick Vol. Fire Co. Susie has been an EMT in Maryland since 1976. Susie is vice-president of the Frederick County Fire/Rescue Museum. She is on the executive committee of Frederick County Volunteer Fire and Rescue Association. She also is part of the Maryland Institute for Emergency Medical Services Systems (MIEMSS) Region II EMS Council. Susie is a board member of the American Trauma Society, Maryland Division. Prior to joining the Firehouse team, she was a staff writer for The Frederick News-Post, covering fire, law enforcement, court and legislative issues. 

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