Rambler Newspapers

Serving Irving, Coppell and Grand Prairie

Irving—Firefighters are called upon daily to be in top physical condition to handle one of the world’s most demanding professions. Their unique skills were on full display during the 2021 Firefighter Combat Challenge outside Irving Mall on Oct. 8 and 9.

Originally scheduled for a tract of land on West 14th Street in Irving, event organizers were sent scrambling Oct. 7 whenthe DFW fire marshal said the site, which was big enough to land a 747 on, was not suitable.

Irving Fire Captain Jeff Wright began the search for an alternate site and found one at the mall. The morning of Oct. 8, a five-story tower, which has 63 steps and is an integral part of the challenge, was dismantled and relocated 6.7 miles to the new site.

“[The venue] is different from last year. I like it being here next to the main road,” Irving firefighter Mike Estes, who is in his second year competing in the challenge, said. “It puts the Combat Challenge out for all the people to see passing by. That’s really nice.”

The competition in its 30th year is a relay race where teams of four firefighters negotiate a five-step course as quickly as possible. Firefighters from around DFW, including contingents from Arlington and Irving Fire, plus several groups from Florida and one from New Mexico competed.

“[Hosting this event] means a lot,”Irving firefighter Mike Agonis said. “Just like the fire department does, we’re constantly giving back.This is another way to give back, show the public what we do, how we have fun, [how] our strengths are coming together as a team. That’s the motto of the fire department; working together as a team. We’re able to display this with Irving Fire Department along with our brothers and sisters throughout the nation.”

The relay began with a firefighter carrying a 42-pound hose pack up the stairs and placing it in a container at the top of the tower. Then, competitors pulled a hose roll, also weighing 42 pounds, up to the top of the tower, andplaced it in the same container.

Firefighters then made their way down the tower’s 63 steps, making sure they do not miss a single step and keeping their hands on the rails to the next step of the relay.

The forcible entry portion of the relay saw competitors stand atop a Keiser Force Machine, a chopping simulator, where they used a nine-pound shot mallet to drive a piece of metal five feet.

Next wasthe 140-foot hydrant run where competitors slalomed through an obstacle course representing fire hydrants.

In the hose advance, competitors carried a hose weighing over 200 pounds for 75 feet before pushing through swinging salon doors, turning on the water and hitting a target with water.

The finale was the Victim Rescue where competitors carry a 175-pound dummy named Rescue Randy 106 feet backwards to finish the course.

Estes feels whetherhe is competing with his fellow Irving firefighters or meeting others from around the country, their bond as part of the fire service is strengthened.

“It helps strengthen the brotherhood of being firefighters, everyone coming around for the same common goal,” Estes said. “We’re coming out here, sacrificing time, energy, sweat and having a good time. For me, it puts it in perspective those who have given the ultimate sacrifice.”

Last fall, Irving hosted the World Challenge XXIX, which attracted numerous teams and spectators from across the country.

“It’s a good time to come out and represent Irving,” Estes said. “We’ve got a lot of strong camaraderie among the guys, sacrificing and putting forth effort. It’s good to see the department getting more involved in this type of competition.”

“It’s good seeing that camaraderie,” Agonis said.“Whether we know each other or not, we’re coming together as one. We’re all firefighters.”