5,000 expected for international firefighter competition

MYRTLE BEACH, SC - MYRTLE BEACH, SC (WMBF) - Thousands of firefighters from around the world will be heating up the Grand Strand in November as the World Firefighter Combat Challenge relocates from Las Vegas to Myrtle Beach.

Burroughs & Chapin announced Thursday that Broadway at the Beach will host the Scott Firefighter Combat Challenge World Challenge XIX Nov. 9-13 at the northwest corner, near Hard Rock Cafe and Celebrity Square.

B&C officials say the challenge, which has been held in Las Vegas for the last three years, is expected to draw 1,500 firefighters and more than 4,000 of their family and friends from the U.S., Canada, New Zealand, Germany, Argentina, Chile and South Africa.

"Burroughs & Chapin is thrilled that Broadway at the Beach has been selected to host this prestigious international events," said Jim Apple, president/CEO of Burroughs & Chapin. "It will not only draw hundreds of new visitors to our area in what is typically the slower off season, but also help spread awareness of the courageous day-to-day acts of our local firefighters."

"I also want to commend the Myrtle Beach Area Chamber of Commerce for its efforts in recruiting this event to our city," said Myrtle Beach Mayor John Rhodes. "Our city is looking forward to rolling out the red carpet for the brave men and women who are competitors, as well as for their families and friends."

The challenge is held to encourage firefighter fitness and demonstrate the rigorous nature of their work. Contestants compete as relay teams or individuals, and must wear full firefighter bunker gear, including a breathing apparatus, protective clothing, helmets, gloves and boots.

The challenge features a series of five tasks, including climbing a five-story tower, hoisting, chopping, dragging hoses and rescuing a life-sized dummy. Event coordinator Jackie Riedel says the challenge's obstacle course - "The Toughest 2 Minutes in Sports" - involves some of the best firefighters from across the nation.

Brandon Cunningham is a captain in Fort Gordan, GA, and is a three-time Firefighter Challenge champion.

"A lot of people get tired of going to Vegas because they have families and friends," he said. "A lot of the competitors are in the South and East Coast and it's expensive to travel out there in the hard economic times everyone is facing. This is a place people can drive to."

"This is huge for Myrtle Beach because of the publicity it will bring to the area and the number of visitors it will draw," said Michael Medeiros, wellness coordinator for Horry County Fire Rescue. "In addition to those who drive and fly in for the challenge, it will show people passing through Broadway at the Beach some of the brave feats of firefighters."

In previous years, firefighters from the Grand Strand have made appearances in the competition. The HCFR team placed No. 9 out of 120 teams at the 2009 competition, and the Myrtle Beach Fire Department's team took 13th at the 2008 event. Firefighters from both squads are already gearing up for this year's challenge.

Despite its track record in Nevada, event officials decided to move the event from Las Vegas to Myrtle Beach because of the area's "family friendly" appeal. While all competition events will be held at Broadway at the Beach, Riedel says she expects families to indulge in other Myrtle Beach tourist attractions during their stay.

Some business owners say they're excited about the competition coming to Myrtle Beach in November, since that is usually a slow time of the year.

"I'm thinking it's good for the business," said Jimmy Yaniv, who owns Initial Touch Embroidery at Broadway at the Beach.

Yaniv says he's already planning on special sales for the competitors and the spectators.

In addition to the World Firefighter Combat Challenge, organizers also say details for a golf tournament and a cruise for participants are being ironed out.

Myrtle Beach has played host to local, state and regional competitions for the Firefighter Combat Challenge, but this is the first time the championship will be in South Carolina.

Copyright 2010 WMBF News. All rights reserved.