Volunteer firefighters from Kearney, Minden and Shelton will be putting their physical endurance to the test by competing this weekend in the Scotts Firefighter Combat Challenge at the Nebraska State Fair. Two firefighters from Minden, four firefighters from Kearney and five from Shelton will participate in the fitness course Saturday and Sunday in Grand Island. The event will take place just inside the main entrance to the State Fairgrounds, across from the Pinnacle Bank Expo Center.
The firefighters will compete in the individual and team competitions along with firefighters from across the country, including South Dakota, Oklahoma and Texas. “As crazy as it seems, we’re giving it a shot,” said Chuck Roe, a Shelton firefighter. Minden Fire Chief Tom Brown and firefighter Andy Knott and Shelton firefighter Gary Gray will compete in the individual challenge starting at 11 a.m. Saturday. Kearney firefighters George Wiedel, Shea Coakley, Matt McDonald and Chris Kupec, along with Shelton firefighters Roe, Jake Ruyle, Mike Pena, Jason Wiehn and Gray all will compete in the team challenge starting at 11 a.m. Sunday.
It’s the first time any of them have taken part in a firefighter challenge.
“I love being physical and the competition,” said McDonald, a former tight end for the University of Nebraska at Kearney Loper football team and a current student. Wearing full bunker gear and an air pack, firefighters will simulate the demands of firefighting by performing a series of five tasks against the clock. Firefighters must climb a five-story tower, hoist and drag hoses, chop, and drag a 175-pound dummy. The team, or individual, with the best time, wins. With bulky, heavy gear that limits their mobility, firefighters have their work cut out for them. In all, the equipment weighs about 75 pounds. “We’ve done a few workouts with our gear,” Brown said. “It’s entertaining to say the least.”