Tonawanda News

June 22, 2013

Competing for a cause

By Rick Pfeiffer
The Tonawanda News

Tonawanda News — WHEATFIELD — It was a staple on ESPN for more than a decade.

Now, it's made its way to Wheatfield as part of a major fundraiser for the SPCA of Niagara. 

For the next two days, Scott Safety is bringing its Firefighter Combat Challenge to the Summit Park Mall parking lot as part of the SPCA of Niagara Pets and Paws Jamboree. 

The challenge promotes and showcases the talents, skills and athleticism of firefighters in a competition that travels to more than 20 locations across the United States every year. The competition simulates what are described as the "essential skills" of firefighting and will celebrate the best firefighters in the region.

Up to 75 firefighters are expected to compete. They'll wear full turn-out gear and an air pack and carry that 75 pounds of gear as they climb a five-story tower, drag and use fire hoses, drag a 175-pound dummy and simulate breaking through the roof of a building.

"ESPN called it the toughest two minutes in sports," Combat Challenge Operations Manager Ron Beckman said. "The whole point of the competition is to show the skills it takes for a firefighter to fight an average fire."

Beckman said firefighters from across New York and southern Ontario will take part in the competition.

There's even an opportunity for kids to come out and compete in the same drills. 

"The kids get the chance to do the same drills as the adults (suitably adjusted)," said Dave Bower, an SPCA Board member who is helping to coordinate the competition and jamboree. "It's just an amazing event."

In addition to the Combat Challenge, the Niagara SPCA will also be providing plenty of other fun. There will be live music, craft and food vendors, carnival rides and the money raised will all go to support the Lockport Road animal shelter.

The shelter has faced significant financial challenges and Bower says the jamboree and challenge are critically important.

"If we get a strong showing of community support, this will put the shelter on very good standing," Bower said. "Plus, it's a really good time."

The event runs from 10 a.m. to midnight today and 10 a.m. to 11 p.m. Sunday. The combat challenge begins at 1 p.m. each day.

Admission is $10 for adults. Children are free.

IF YOU GO • WHAT: SPCA of Niagara Jamboree featuring the Firefighter Combat Challenge • WHEN: 10 a.m. to midnight today and 10 a.m. to 11 p.m. Sunday; firefighter challenge begins at 1 p.m. each day • WHERE: Summit Park Mall parking lot, Williams Road, Wheatfield • COST: $10 for adults, children free