The firemen raced up and down flights of stairs hauling heavy hoses, hammered through obstacles, dashed around the building and even carried a victim to safety, before giving way to the exhaustion they felt. But instead of battling the flames and smoke they normally face when responding to a call, this time they were buoyed by the sound of cheering.
Dozens of spectators were treated to an exhibit of the strength and perseverance of the highly trained firefighters at a competition held as part of the 103rd Annual Utah State Firemen’s Association Convention in Price last Friday.
The Firefighter Challenge was an obstacle course, of sorts, with the 23 firefighters, dressed in full fire gear, competing to see who could complete the training tasks the fastest. The first obstacle they faced was lugging a hose up three flights of stairs, then pulling another hose hand over hand to the top of the tower.
After racing back down the three flights, they used a large hammer to move a Keiser sled to simulate forcible entry-chopping. Then, the participants hurried around a series of cones on the other side of the building, to a fully-pressured hose that they were required to pull approximately 75 feet and use to spray a target.
Finally, the competitors had to heave a 185 pound dummy back across the distance to the finish line.
In training, the firefighters are expected to complete the course in under eight minutes, but the group surpassed the expectation, with the winner, Ben Pennic, finishing in just 1:48. Pennic, a Payson volunteer, was challenged by Rick Pitcher, of Ivins, who finished in 2:03, and Mike Alstrom, of Tropic, who finished in 2:23.
Two local firemen participated in and completed the course. Rudy Matelco’s time was among the fastest of the day. The Price volunteer conquered the course in just 3:26. Richard Laursen also completed the event, well within the expected time, coming in after 5:59. And they both did it despite weighing less than the dummy they had to carry across the finish line.
Laursen, who has been a volunteer firefighter for nearly seven years, was exhausted after finishing the event. “Pulling a dummy that weighs more than me was tough!” he said.
He was especially pleased with completing the course, especially after many of the firefighters couldn’t, and after he dropped the dummy a short distance before the finish line. “I just looked up at the clouds,” he related, “and said, ‘Father help me finish this thing off.'”
Laursen enjoyed competing and developing relationships with the other firefighters who attempted the course. “Seeing other people have success helped me finish it off,” he said. “Having all these people from all over the state come here to compete, there’s a camaraderie that helps push you through.”