Firefighters from seven states converged in Carlsbad for the annual Firefighter Combat Challenge.
Carlsbad firefighters are the third best team in the world when it comes to the firefighter combat challenge.
The former world champions took third place overall in this year’s international Scott Firefighter Combat Challenge competition.
The worldwide competition was held from Oct. 23 to 28 in Louisville, Kentucky this year, following the national competition in Tyler, Texas.
Teams of firefighters from around the world raced through an obstacle course aimed at showcasing skills and strengths needed to put out fires and protect the public.
Carlsbad participated in a relay race, and in teams of two for the tandem competition.
Carlsbad firefighters placed third overall in the relay race. The team from Montgomery, Alabama won first in the relay competition. A firefighting team from Slovenia took second.
Firefighters Geronimo Ontiveros and Casey Collins placed fourth in the tandem race.
Last year, the team was crowned first place in world, and returned this year the defending champions.
In nationals, Carlsbad won first for tandem, first for relay and first for a team competition that averaged three individual times.
At the world competition, the team was presented with the national trophy sponsored by the Lion’s Club.
Carlsbad Fire Chief Rick Lopez said his team trained constantly leading up to the competition, but still managed to protect residents of Carlsbad.
“I’m real proud of them,” he said. “They put a lot of time and effort into this. They represented Carlsbad well.”
Splitting time between constant training and the day-to-day of a firefighter was the team’s biggest accomplishment, Lopez said.
He said the team practiced for months, six days a week, three hours a day.
“Even with all the practice, they still show up to work,” he said. “I’m proud they can continue to do their job and train for the competition.”
Seventy-five to 80 other teams from around the U.S. and countries including Germany, France, Poland, Kuwait, New Zealand were attempting a similar triumph, but Carlsbad continued its dominance early on, Lopez said.
The team went in as the world record holder, with a time of 1:02 on the relay event, starting as the number one seed going into the tournament. Carlsbad’s world record still stands despite the fierce competition.
“The time has gradually moved downwards past our prediction. We never thought they could go below a minute and five seconds, but they proved us wrong. Carlsbad defied gravity,” said Paul Davis, creator of the Combat Challenge.
From there it was single elimination, and records meant nothing.
“World records are there and all,” Lopez said. “But you just have to beat the guy that runs against you.”
Carlsbad’s team came a long way before this year’s competition, Lopez said, struggling in the beginning to complete the race without any glaring mistakes.
“When they started trying as a team, there was a lot of flaws,” he said. “It took them a couple years to get a fast time and a clean run.”
The team does intend to compete in next year’s competition, hoping to tighten their runs and strengthen their performance one step at a time.
“It’s just training and training all over again,” Lopez said. “They’re fine-tuning every step they take. Every last bit, they just run it and run it, and try to find a faster way. They don’t give up.”
Davis said all that work makes for stronger firefighting, one of the last crafts that still requires physical toughness.
“This is one of the few jobs left in America that requires some brawn. It’s essential that firefighters maintain peak physical condition over the span of their careers. This encourages guys to do that,” Davis said.
Adrian Hedden can be reached at 575-628-5516, firstname.lastname@example.org or @AdrianHedden on Twitter.
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