ELKHART — More than 30 fire departments came to Elkhart this weekend to compete in a battle of speed, strength and skill.

The third annual 3M Scott Firefighter Combat Challenge in Elkhart brought teams from all around the area such as St. Joseph County, Indiana, and Edwardsburg and other areas of the country, including Boca Raton, Florida, Mobile, Alabama  and Pataskala, Ohio.

“This promotes health and wellness and fitness for the fire service,” Elkhart Assistant Fire Chief Steve Kamp said.

The competition was developed by 3M Scott Fire & Safety to promote health among firefighters, its organizers said.

“Firefighters know the number one in-the-line-of-duty on scene death is cardiac arrest, so we really promote fitness and health because it’s something we can control,” Kamp said.

In their gear, contestants were first asked to climb four stories of stairs while carrying a 42-pound high rise pack, as they would during a fire in a high rise building.

At the top, they hoisted nearly 50 pounds up the tower before racing back down the tower, carefully catching every step on the way down.

“They’re carrying sometimes their own body weight in gear and tools and equipment,” Kamp said. One firefighter suggested his gear weighed roughly 75 pounds, and Kamp said at times, they can haul as much as 150 pounds at a time, depending on the scenario.

At the bottom of the tower, contestants slammed an 80-pound steel beam with the sledge simulating the action of cutting a whole into a roof before weaving through a maze of cones, grabbing a water hose and dragging it, entering a saloon doorway and shooting water at a designated “fire.”

After that, Rescue Randy awaited them. Weighing in at 175 pounds, the mannequin must be dragged 160 feet before their test is complete.

“This is a professional sport,” Kamp said. “It can be anywhere from a 1:30 to three or four minutes of extreme sport for these guys.”

Following several competitions through the rest of the country, those who qualified during the Elkhart competition will compete on Oct. 4-6 in the national finals at Fort Pierce. Florida and at the world finals in Montgomery, Alabama on Oct. 21-26.

Sponsors for the Elkhart event include Elkhart Brass, Century Foam, Pierce Electric. Patrick Industries, Goshen Health, Elkhart Police Department, Elkhart Fire Department, Formco and Sutphen Fire Truck Manufacturers.

For more information on the 3M Scott Firefighter Combat Challenge, visit www.firefighterchallenge.com.

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