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Murray Journal

From stair climbs to heroic rescues: Murray City showcases firefighting prowess

Sep 08, 2023 12:51PM ● By Shaun Delliskave

Murray City firefighter Brian Carriero races in 100-degree heat at the 2023 West Region Firefighter Challenge Championship. (Shaun Delliskave/City Journals)

Where there is smoke, there is fire, and where there is fire there are firefighters. Except in July, when some of the best firefighters in the western United States gathered at Murray Park to participate in the 2023 West Region Firefighter Challenge Championship. Held July 19-22, the blazing sun was the only thing causing burns as the temperature hovered around 100 degrees. 

This global event traces its origins back to 1991 when Dr. Paul Davis conceptualized the firefighter Combat Challenge. Designed as a medium to enhance health and wellness within the firefighting community, it has now become a symbolic testament to the profession's demands and the inherent resilience required.

The event's framework is rooted in five core firefighting skills:

Stair Climb: Participants must scale a tower, donning their firefighter turnouts and shouldering a 42-pound hose. Chief Joseph Mittelman of the Murray City Fire Department said, "This simulates our ability to reach a building's top floor, maintaining the stamina to continue working."

Hose Hoist: At the stair's zenith, competitors must pull up a hose weighing an additional 42 pounds using a pulley system. Mittelman said, "It mimics the actual process where firefighters lift equipment using a hoisting system, optimizing equipment retrieval across floors."

Forcible Entry: Competitors return to ground level, tasked with moving a substantial 160-pound steel beam across a 5-foot sled. "This simulates rescue situations where one might need to axe through barriers," Mittelman said.

Hose Advance: Participants must drag a hose across 75 feet, targeting a fire.

Victim Rescue: Perhaps the most poignant, this task involves saving a 175-pound mannequin, encapsulating the essence of a firefighter's primary duty—saving lives. "This simulates scenarios where firefighters, despite being exhausted, find the strength and courage to save a life," Mittelman said.

The decision to bring the challenge to Murray City wasn't arbitrary. The 1990s saw a team from Murray City clinching accolades, setting records, and even achieving the fastest team time consecutively in 1994 and 1995. This prowess caught the attention of Servpro, prompting them to choose Murray as the Western Regionals' venue this year.

This year's competition was not just a testament to the firefighters' abilities but also served as an economic catalyst. Mittelman said, "It brings in visitors, especially from places as far-flung as Austin, Texas. It’s a unique opportunity for Murray City to shine on the national stage."

Murray City FD took third place overall in regional department points. Taylor Ward stood out, representing Utah's women by securing a record finish in just 3 minutes. But statistics alone don't paint the complete picture. With a record 18 firefighters participating from Murray, the emphasis was on fitness and dedication.

Yet, the event wasn't without its unique challenges. Ambient temperatures soared between 90 to 100 degrees, significantly altering the event dynamics. "The softening tar, in particular, posed an unforeseen challenge," Mittelman said. "Competitors faced unexpected obstacles as hoses stuck to the melting pavement."

While individual feats were celebrated, the event's underlying theme was unity. "Though we hail from different cities and departments, there’s an understanding that, in more challenging times, we stand together," Mittelman said.

Beyond the competitive spirit, the event spotlighted the inherent camaraderie among firefighters. "Firefighting is not just a profession. We live together, train together, and stand by each other. Events like these reinforce the family bond we share," Mittelman said.

Regarding community engagement, while this year’s challenge was solely competitive, Mittelman hinted at more inclusive plans for the future, "We're keen on integrating public educational components, like the 'Workout with a Firefighter' event next year."

Looking forward, Mittelman is optimistic about the challenge's recurrence, hinting at potential national or global iterations by 2027. "We're hopeful for the future,” Mittelman said. “Murray City has the spirit, commitment and capability to host events of such caliber." λ