ELKHART — Local firefighters are again testing their strength and endurance at the 3M Scott Firefighter Combat Challenge world competition.

The competition features individual and relay-style activities designed to test the fitness and endurance of firefighters around the nation and the world.

“The idea with the Scott Firefighter Challenge was to promote physical fitness in firefighting service,” firefighter Matt Girard said.

Wearing full bunker gear and a Scott 5.5 Air-Pak breathing apparatus, firefighters compete against both the other team and the clock by climbing a five-story tower, hoisting equipment, chopping through roofs, dragging hoses and “rescuing” a 175-pound “victim.”

“We want to showcase that we’re here in the best possible physical shape we can be in to protect the residents of Elkhart and do our job,” firefighter Jason Gour said.

Already qualifying for the world competition thanks to their efforts during the local challenge, the team of five from Elkhart will join 500 competitors who also qualified based on individual scores.

“The competition level will be higher than what we saw here,” Gour said.

The Elkhart team consists of Gour and Girard, firefighter Matthew Kulis and lieutenants Nick Hintz and Marty Dyer. They have one main goal for the world competition, and that’s to beat their best score. At the city’s challenge, Elkhart scored a time of 1:39, but at world, they’re hoping to lower that time to 1:25.

Supporters have gathered around the Elkhart city fire team in an effort to help them reach their goal.

Sponsors include Griffen Plumbing and Heating, Forest River, Thor, E.W. Marine, Everlite Trailers, Jones Petrie Rafinski, Skillman Corporation, Iechyd Da Brewing Company, Lefever, Miller Manufacturing, Matzke Florist, AFSCME, Watkins Family Dentistry, Look Trailers, Pace American, Cargo Express, Elkhart Bedding, Elmers Body Shop, Kong Coolers, Steelyard Coffee Company, Hacienda Mexican Restaurants, Elkhart IndianMotorcycle, Heartnett Animal Hospital, Hopman Jewelers, Flexible Concepts, Positron, Pixco Industries, Chester Law, Stiver Family, Welch Packaging, Graphics Factory, IAFF and Premium Concrete.

“We’re thankful for the support we’ve gotten from our community. Everyone we have talked to has been very supportive and we’re humbled by it,” Gour said. “We want to represent Elkhart and show that we’ve been putting the work in.”

The 3M Scott Firefighter Combat Challenge was created as a way to encourage fire departments to get serious about their fitness. With heart disease as the leading cause of death on and off duty for firefighters, the industry has shown a need for such a program.

“The tasks that we need to complete are very strenuous,” Gour said. “Our whole downtown crew will be here working out at different points during the day and it’s so we can do our job better. We have high rises where we have to climb 10 stories and we might be loaded down with equipment and we need to be able to do that when the residents call for us.”

The team on Wednesday traveled to Montgomery, Alabama, for this year’s world competition, although qualifying began on Monday. On Thursday, they are scheduled to compete for their spot in the qualifying round. The team relay competition is Saturday.

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