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‘Kings of the Jungle’

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Hobbs Fire Department captain, crew wins event called the ‘toughest two minutes in sports’

After years of hard work and training, Captain Rodney Smith with the Hobbs Fire Department has finally been named “King of the Jungle” at the 2021 Firefighter Combat Challenge finals in Ft. Pierce, Florida on Saturday.

The finals are dubbed the “toughest two minutes in sports” by ESPN and they were held Nov. 2 through the 6.

HFD fielded not only individuals like Smith in the competition but also several other individual firefighters who all competed in the team competition.

Smith competed against a field of more than 200 competitors from around the world, finishing with the fastest time of the day.

He has been working toward the King of the Jungle title since he started in the competition back in 2015, he said.

Smith won third place in 2018 and 2019 before taking first place this year.

“It’s hard, it hurts your body, your legs are on fire, your lungs are burning, and after you finish it really feels like you accomplished something big,” Smith said of the competition. “No one wants to run it, but when you win it feels good. The hardest thing for me was staying mentally prepared because you know it’s going to hurt. Training for it is tough too because you have to have the discipline to get out there every week and train for it.”

According to HFD Captain Rico Rendon, the first time HFD had a relay team was in the 90s and that team consisted of five guys, one of those being Hobbs City Manager Manny Gomez.

“City Manager Manny Gomez was a part of the team along with a few others,” Rendon stated. “They kind of started it. 1991 was the first year they (the combat challenge) started and our team started competing in 1993 or 1994, working off and on through the 90s.

“It kind of slowed down throughout the 2000s. A few of the guys who were on the team in the 90s would always talk about the combat challenge. Well in 2015, we decided to go and try it out in Carlsbad.

“Me and Rodney stuck with it, and when we ran that first time we fell in love with it and decided to put a team together. We won the world championship in 2019 and then won it this year. Rodney won the individual championship and our team, which consists of five members, won the relay championship.”

Headley and Smith finished third in the tandem.

The challenge is divided into five events participants – either individually, in a tandem or on a relay team – must finish as quickly as possible, wearing full bunker gear and an air pack, totaling to about 50-60 pounds of extra weight.

The events include:

High rise pack carry where participants haul a 42-pound hose pack up five flights of stairs and drop it into a bucket.

Hose hoist where participants hoist another 42-pound hose up to the top of the platform and then race down the stairs, hitting every step along the way.

Forcible entry where participants use a 9-pound ax to open a makeshift roof for ventilation.

Hose advance where participants run a 140-foot delineator circuit and pick up and drag a hose 75 feet and hit a target with the water stream.

Victim rescue where a 175-pound mannequin is lifted and carried backward to safety.

In order for someone to become a team member, tryouts are held at the fire department and whoever has the top five fastest times, make the team.

Rendon told the News-Sun what it typically takes for team members to prepare for this type of competition.

“We’re wearing full gear, during the summer, which sometimes can be over 100 degrees,” Rendon stated. “So we’re wearing full bunker gear with our pack on. We pick up our rescue mannequin that weighs 185 pounds and drag it over 100 feet. Dragging a mannequin 100 feet, pulling a sled that weighs 240 pounds, pulling a hose line that weighs 240 pounds and hitting a steel beam that weighs 160 pounds. We mimic all of this on the grounds.”

Sponsors for the team include the IAFF fire department union, B and G Transportation, and HFD Chief Barry Young, along with others within the department and their families for all contributing to making the win possible.

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