PALESTINE — While it might garner a few headlines, for the five members of the Palestine Fire Department's Firefighter Combat Challenge putting out a massive structure fire in their hometown and then going on to become finalists in the Firefighter World Combat Challenge XXII is them just doing what they love and loving what they do.
Palestine firefighters Clay Starling, Juan Quinonez, Nathan Reed, Brandon Mathis and Tim Ingram are a team both at work and in competition. All five are members of the department's 'A' team, which the quintet agree, makes organizing training sessions for the Challenges less challenging.
"It really helps with training scheduling that we all work the same shifts," Reed said with a laugh.
The group recently placed in the top 16 of the LiftMaster Championship competitions held in Tyler earlier this month, qualifying them to compete in the up-coming World Challenge XXII at the Stratosphere Hotel & Casino in Las Vegas later this month.
"This is an event that some of the biggest fire departments in the world compete in," Quinonez said. "We're one of the smallest department represented."
According to the event's website, www.firefighterchallenge.com, "the Challenge annually attracts hundreds of U.S. and Canadian municipal fire departments at more than 25 locations and is now expanding to countries around the world, including New Zealand, Germany, Argentina, Chile, and South Africa. The Challenge seeks to encourage firefighter fitness and demonstrate the profession's rigors to the public. Wearing full bunker gear and breathing apparatus, pairs of competitors race head-to-head as they simulate the physical demands of real-life firefighting by performing a linked series of five tasks including climbing the five-story tower, hoisting, chopping, dragging hoses and rescuing a life-sized, 175 pound 'victim' as they race against themselves, their opponent and the clock."