Friday, February 28, 2014

The Scott Firefighter Combat Challenge: More than just entertainment

I asked Chief Bill Sturgeon if he would provide a first person account of his participation in the Challenge at the Daytona 500 last Saturday. We constantly remark that the Challenge is a competition with a purpose. I believe Chief Sturgeon’s comments validate our claim. This is the first of several postings from the first event of the 2014 season.

Several of you witnessed a personal and professional accomplishment Saturday February 22, 2014,  when I completed my first Scott Firefighter Combat Challenge in the over 50 division with a time of 6:19. For my first event, it was just about finishing. While I missed the 6:00 minute mark by 19 seconds, I was elated (and a little oxygen deprived) when the Pit Crew began to helped me doff my gear.  I have been a career firefighter since 1982 when I entered the United States Air Force as a firefighter. 

I remained on active duty for several years before I transferred to the USAF Reserves. After leaving the Air Force I was hired by the City of Deland as a Firefighter and completed my first physically demanding firefighting course in 1985, Smoke Divers at the Florida State Fire College in Ocala. I also attended paramedic school during my tenure with Deland and then left that agency to become a firefighter/paramedic with Orange County Fire Rescue. 

During my 24 year career with Orange County, I rose through the ranks and became the Division Chief of Training.  During my employment as a firefighter, I never really paid much attention to my wellness and fitness (until recently) and I ballooned to a weight of 302 pounds. I felt unhealthy and very unfit….. In 2013,  I was appointed to the Fire Chief’s position at the City of St. Cloud and I have spent the last several months preaching “leadership by example.” What I quickly learned is that being a fire chief is a tough an stressful job and I knew I had to do something to change my paradigm related to stress and fitness. Enter Patrick Hogan; my personal trainer who four years ago weighed over 350 pounds himself. Right away, we bonded and began a strengthening and fitness regimen.  He told me I had to have a goal, I chose the Firefighter Combat Challenge as my goal to improve my fitness level. I now weigh 270 lbs and have lost three pants sizes since September of 2013.

On the day of the challenge, I brought my own support team (wife Linda, my Trainer Patrick, and his wife Christie). I do not know who was more nervous, me our my crew?  I drew the number “6” and had to run (ok… walk) the heat by myself. I was in the ready position and ran through my strategy in my mind one more time (take three deep breaths on each landing and prior to each station) As I climbed the tower I felt pretty good (but my vibralert was sounding [I quickly checked my air and it was good]), I reached the top and began the hose hoist and realized that I had underestimated the difficulty of this event, but I completed it and even managed to chase the hose down the stairs when I missed the “box.” 

I chuckled, put the hose in the box and proceeded down the stairs (touching everyone as required). I arrived at the sled (my favorite event) and proceeded to move the block in the proper direction until the buzzer sounded. I then proceeded through the obstacle course and picked up the charge 1 ¾ hose line and advanced it towards the target. I can remember one of the staff members telling me I am going to feel a tug, I do not remember the tug because being a big man in motion has its advantages. I knocked down the target and proceeded to the “longest 100 feet in the fire service.” I picked up a very stiff 175 lb dummy and rested him on my wrist and that lasted for about 25 feet and then I dropped him. 

Now, I am starting to get foggy and could here staff members and the crowd yelling “come on chief you can do it!” That inspired me to go another 40 feet, then I dropped the dummy again and the next thing I know Grand National Champion Louis Boiteau is in my face saying “come on chief, 30 seconds, you got this.” I grabbed the dummy and stumbled across the finish line….. mission accomplished. However, the highlight of my day was on the shuttle on my way back to the parking area when a fellow firefighter looked at me and said “Hey chief, you gained the respect of a lot of firefighters today.” Thank you brother !!! That meant a lot!

My after action review:

1.      Train beyond what is required of you in the challenge.
2.      Legs, legs, legs
3.      More aerobic capacity development
4.      Have a peaceful mind during the Challenge
5.      Have a strategy to complete the course
6.      Practice with a 175 lb dummy (Louis told me to practice dragging the dummy 150 feet)
7.      Be prepared for anything-make sure your air is all the way on…..rookie mistake
8.      Practice your technique for the sled. Hands together.
9.      Set a goal and work towards it….

Chief Bill Sturgeon
City of St. Cloud, Florida

Monday, February 3, 2014

Daytona 500

Daytona Speedway, February 23 & 24, 2014
Over 450,000 people will attend Speed Week at Daytona this year. We’ll be the pre-race show on both Saturday and Sunday. Once again, we have a fantastic opportunity to increase the public’s awareness of the skills, dedication and prowess of our Nation’s first responders.

We have made every effort to ease the logistics of attending this event. And, while we recognize that this event takes place well before our traditional kick-off, over 100 of you responded positively you would be interested in attending this event. The added sweetener of a free $110 ticket to the race was intended to reward you for coming out of hibernation.

Parking is available for a limited number of cars and a cursory search of lodging has found accommodations within the range of normal, assuming that you were out about 20 miles from the race course.

I am guardedly optimistic that our response to this auspicious occasion will provide our sponsors with the needed “umph” to show that we have an event worth watching by the masses.

Call if you have any questions you needed answered. We’re here to help.