Wednesday, October 23, 2013
It’s not all a young person’s game, as the elders of Summerville Fire and Rescue proved last week when they brought home First Place in the national Scott Firefighter Combat Challenge Over 40 category.
A plaque hangs at Station 1 and each team member got a gold medallion.
Scott, the maker of the Scott Air Pak breathing apparatus that almost every firefighter in the nation uses, sponsors the event each year. Scott is a subsidiary of Tyco and an international leader in fire suppression and security.
The Summerville team is composed of four, unusual because most teams have five members. The four include Battalion Chief Rodney Profit, 48; Cpt. Billy Penn, 40; Volunteer Cpt. Kenny Sott, 56 and Firefighter Michael Quick, 45.
The fire department decided to compete with the “over-the-hill” gang because the 20 to 40 age group was populated with “professional” competitors.
Profit explained that, “some of the larger fire departments across the country, for example Miami, hire a team of people who do nothing but go to competitions. In between, they train. One of them told me if it is a really, really, big fire, they might help fight it, but that is rare. All they do is train and compete.”
For most fire departments, however, that would be a questionable practice and an unaffordable one.
So Summerville decided to take its most experienced, the older guys, and send them.
Profit said they have competed in the past in opens - at Charlotte, N.C. and Lexington, Ky. - and have done fairly well. So for the first time, it sent the “old guys” off to the nationals.
The event was held in Montgomery, Ala. this year.
“We started off as “young ‘uns” seven years ago,” explained Profit, “and had some success.”
“So once Billy [Penn] hit 40 we decided to compete.”
“Normal relay teams have five members and we competed with only four - one person doubled up - and we still won first place,” chortled Profit. “And we beat out last year’s World Championship runner-up, Winston-Salem FD.
“There are five stations [events],” Profit explains.
“To begin with the start [course] is on the back of a big tractor trailer truck that they use to cart it all over the country. On the truck is a five-story scaffolding structure. We are all in full turnout with our SCBA (Self Contained Breathing Apparatus).
Station 1: Pick up a 3-inch hose pack that weighs 42 pounds, put it on your shoulder and run up five stories to the top and put it in a box, then pass the baton to the next team member.
Station 2: Take a 42-pound donut roll [rolled hose] and hoist it up five stories with a rope, hand-over-hand, and put it in the designated area, then run down five stories - without missing a single step - and hand off the baton.
Station 3: Forcible Entry Simulator. This is a Keiser Force Machine that simulates chopping such as using an axe to chop vents in a roof of a structure. The team member uses a 9-pound sledge shot mallet and pounds on a 160-pound steel eye beam until it has moved five feet. She or he then runs through a slalom-style obstacle course and hands the baton off to the next person.
Station 4: The team member picks up a 1-inch charged [filled with water] hose and advances 75 feet, through a double swinging door blind and immediately sprays the water trying to hit a small hole target, then shut the hose down and hand the baton off to the last team member.
Station 5: Victim rescue. A team member picks up a victim - a 175-pound Rescue Randy mannequin, and pulls it backwards 106 feet.
Then the teams watch as their times are posted. Times are taken in one hundredths of a second and, often, teams win by that.
But before final times are posted, penalties are levied for such things as missing a step coming down from the tower, a hose pack not placed properly or taken off the shoulder too early or hitting the strike plate on the Keiser. Anything from two to 10 seconds can be added to a team’s time per penalty.
For the Summerville team, the times were finally posted and it had won by 41/hundredths of a second. Summerville - 1.22.41 and the Tar Heels (Winston-Salem) - 1.22.63.
“We take our vacation days to do this,” said Profit. “The department sets aside a small amount of money for airfare and hotel but we pay our own meals and if we take a spouse, we pay all the spouse’s expenses.
We couldn’t do this without the support of Chief Waring, the Town of Summerville and our families. Most of us have kids and it falls on our wives to handle all the kid care, kids’ activity running, meals, housekeeping etc., while we are off competing.”
“But we are going to take them [spouses] out to dinner, I think,” said Profit, “as a ‘thank-you.’”
Next on their agenda? The World Championships in Las Vegas next week.