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Vandenberg Fire Department takes gold, bronze in international challenge

The 2012 Vandenberg Fire Department Firefighter Combat Challenge team (Courtesy photo).

The 2012 Vandenberg Fire Department Firefighter Combat Challenge team (Courtesy photo).

VANDENBERG AIR FORCE BASE, Calif. -- A team of six Vandenberg firefighters competed in an international touring and television sports event Oct. 26-29 in San Diego, Calif.

According to the event's official website, The Firefighter Combat Challenge, otherwise known as, "the toughest two minutes in sports," seeks to encourage firefighter fitness and demonstrate the rigors of the profession to the public.

"The teams must wear full bunker gear and the SCOTT Air-Pak breathing apparatus as pairs of competitors race head-to-head," said Dan Ardoin, Vandenberg Fire Department division chief. "Wearing the gear simulates the physical demands of real-life firefighting while the teams are performing a linked series of five tasks including climbing a 5-story tower, hoisting, chopping, dragging hoses and rescuing a life-sized, 175 pounds 'victim.' Teams are racing against themselves, their opponent and the clock," Ardoin said.

Last weekend's national level FFCC event was only Vandenberg's third time competing  in a challenge that has been around for 21 years, spawning over 500 challenges.

"Usually we're unable to send a team to this competition because all of our potential competitors are working," said Mark Farias, Vandenberg Fire Department chief.

This year, the Vandenberg team was able to take home gold and bronze in several categories.

"Our team placed exceptionally well in all events," Farias said. "Marissa Halbeisen won 1st place in the female category and she also placed third on a co-ed tandem team event with Manny Villegas. Our entire Vandenberg team placed 4th over-all."

Don't underestimate this Vandenberg Fire Department team. According to the chief, they are a force to be reckoned with.

"We're so new to this competition, that in years past we brought our own equipment and ran the obstacles wearing real gear," Farias said. "Actual fire equipment is heavier than the training equipment the competition allows. Even though this made our times slower, we still placed well nationally. The Vandenberg Fire Department is an extremely fine-tuned, synergistic machine. I'm proud of each and every one of them and I'm excited for them to show the world what we're made of at the world-wide fire fighting competition later this month."

Halbeisen and Villegas will represent Team Vandenberg at the Firefighter Combat World Challenge XXI held at Myrtle Beach, South Carolina, from Nov. 12 - 17.