Trash talk heats up ahead of firefighter challenge

Truth file photo Kevin Lehman, left, and Matt Kullis take off for the Firefighter Combat Challenge in Elkhart in 2017. The competition returns to Elkhart for a third consecutive year on July 12 and 13. 

ELKHART — As the Elkhart Firefighter Combat Challenge moves closer, the Elkhart Fire Department is still looking for sponsors and participants, according to Fire Chief Chad Carey.

“But we’re pushing through,” he told the Board of Public Safety on Tuesday morning.

The public event will return to Elkhart on July 12 and 13. The firefighter combat challenge simulates actions that firefighters would do on the job, such as climbing stairs in full gear and with a hose on their backs, lifting a hose from the ground to the top of a tower and dragging a 170-pound mannequin away from the “fire.” The fastest time wins.

There will also be a Kid’s Firefighter Challenge, in which children get to wear helmets and turn-out gear and try what it’s like to be a firefighter.

Also competing will be the SWAT team from the Elkhart Police Department, which has beaten the local firefighters in previous years.

However, if the firefighters are to be believed, that is because police officers wear lighter gear.

“They’ll wear their little outfits,” said Carey on Tuesday.

Carey said that the events in 2017 and 2018 had coincided with the warmest days of those years, making for “brutal” conditions for the firefighters in their heavy gear.

Chief of Police Chris Snyder, who was at the public safety meeting, had to step out before Carey made his remarks. Be the police chief still had a response.

“We will save our talking for their course, but I will remind Chief Carey the firefighter’s challenge trophy is proudly in the Police Department’s display case,” Snyder said in an email.

Carey said he didn’t know the number of competitors who have signed up already, but he did not appear to be worried about turnout. He said 10 people had signed up ahead of time last year but that 80 competed at the event.

The competition will be at High Street and Waterfall Drive in downtown Elkhart. Competition on July 12 begins at 5 p.m., while the July 13 activities begin at 8:30 a.m. More information can be found at

Follow Rasmus S. Jorgensen on Twitter @ReadRasmus

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