Firefighter challenge hits Vail | VailDaily.com

Firefighter challenge hits Vail

VAIL, Colorado – The toughest two minutes in sports hits its highest altitude this weekend.

Dozens of firefighters from all over the West will be in Vail for some flaming smackdown at the Firefighter Combat Challenge.

It’s billed as “The Toughest Two Minutes in Sports,” and Vail is hosting it for the first time.

“Vail’s is the highest altitude ever to host this event,” said Mark Miller, Vail’s fire chief.

It’s being billed as “8150: Adrenaline at Altitude, The Vail Firefighter Combat Challenge.” It’s in Vail’s Ford Park, and they’re also hosting a Kids Firefighter Challenge.

Competitors coming from all over Colorado, of course, Arizona and other Rocky Mountain West states, and from as far away as Alaska.

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A caravan of semi trucks filled with competition equipment rolled into Vail, and they’ll set up later this week. They cover 35,000 miles each year, migrating from site to site for these Firefighter Combat Challenges.

This weekend’s Vail champions move to the world finals in Las Vegas for a televised appearance on the Versus network. They’ll knock helmets with competitors from fire departments from Canada and the U.S. The challenges are now stretching around the world to New Zealand, Germany, Argentina, Chile and South Africa.

The Toughest Two Minutes in Sports finds competitors wearing full bunker gear – helmets and coats and boots – their Scott Air-Pak breathing apparatus and other fire fighting gear. They compete head-to-head in the sorts of things they’re likely to run into when they fight real-life fires.

In two minutes or less, they’ll climb a five-story tower, they’ll hoist, they’ll chop, they’ll drag hoses and they’ll rescue a 175-pound dummy.

The fastest time wins.

The Challenge was born in 1974 when Chief David Gratz, director of fire/rescue services for Montgomery County in Maryland, asked the Human Performance Laboratory at the University of Maryland to come up with some tests through which he could run job applicants. They came up with five tests for cardiopulmonary performance and muscular fitness.

A few years later, one of those researchers thought it would be fun if they turned it into a competition, which was a pretty small step since they already had a bunch of guys and a stopwatch.

On May 5, 1991, the Firefighter Combat Challenge was born. Two years later, ESPN started covering the event.