I’ve always had a thing for firefighters. There’s something about a well-muscled man in uniform with ash and sweat streaking across his face hurtling towards a fire while everyone else runs for cover, that I find both heroic and hopelessly attractive. Of course, in reality, most firemen look less like Herb Ritts’s portrait “Fred with Tires” and more like somebody’s aging father with a strong affection for firehouse chili and Bud Light. The heroism remains the same; the washboard abs and perfectly mussed helmet hair fade into the realm of imagination.
This week, however, imagination is pushing towards actuality as scores of firefighters descend on Fremont Street to don uniforms and compete in a hellish obstacle course, known as the Scott World Firefighter Combat Challenge.
Now in its 17th year, the World Challenge brings together more than 800 firefighters from around the world to compete in five events that test each competitor’s physical agility and professional skill. Known, in some circles, as “the toughest two minutes in sports,” the course includes such hamstring-straining, back-pulling fun as a five-story stair climb while carrying a 42-pound hose, a forcible entry simulation using a large mallet to pound a 160-pound beam and a victim rescue of Rescue Randy, a doll that weighs in at 175 pounds.
Of course, finishing the Challenge isn’t impressive enough to earn you anybody’s nod. As the Combat Challenge Web site says, “Most firefighters can probably finish the events in five to seven minutes. The trick in the Firefighter Combat Challenge is to do it as fast as possible. For many years we wondered if that elusive two-minute barrier could be broken. Now, you hardly get a look unless you're under two. Sad.”
Sad if you’re a fire snuffer who can only dream of running the gauntlet in under 120 seconds. But for folks that think a pack of shapely firefighters getting sweaty in uniform might not be the worst thing ever, it all sounds very, very happy.
Watch teams from North Las Vegas, Las Vegas and Reno compete at the Scott World Firefighter Combat Challenge this week at the Fremont Street Experience.