A group of five Palm Beach firefighter/paramedics is among the fittest and most agile rescue teams in the world, and this week the local rescuers set out to prove their strength, endurance, and speed at the Scott Firefighter Combat Challenge world championship in Myrtle Beach, South Carolina. The local team competed fastest in qualification rounds earlier this week, and Mackenzie Briggs is currently the man to beat for the individual event. That's right, our local bravest are unofficially the fastest team in the world. Now, the challenge is to make it official against "a lot of tough competition," Jason Martino tells the Juice. "It's anybody's game."
The individual and team finals take place tomorrow, and this group has a shot at earning Palm Beach a hefty dose of street cred, assuming that's at all possible. Martino has high hopes for his teammate, Briggs, who ran the Myrtle Beach course in 1:26, his personal best -- and the fastest time in the preliminary rounds of this year's world competition. "He's going to be in the top three... I just don't want to jinx him," Martino says, cautiously modest about the fast-approaching challenges.
The team -- Martino, Briggs, Aaron Piering, Lee Bronco, and Jacques Aime -- won Palm Beach Fire-Rescue's first national title at the Firefighter Combat Challenge in Kissimmee on October 23. That challenge prepared them for what they will face tomorrow in Myrtle Beach.
Wearing "full bunker gear" and the SCOTT Air-Pak 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 5-story tower, hoisting, chopping, dragging hoses and rescuing a life-sized, 175 lb. "victim" as they race against themselves, their opponent and the clock.
Participants complete the five-part challenge individually; then scores are tabulated to determine a team's overall standing. There is also a relay competition, which will talke place on Saturday. But, according to Martino, the Palm Beach gang is most enthusiastic about the team title, the "grand pooh-bah prize" they won at nationals.