By Alexandra Hedrick, Item Staff Writer
For the second year in a row, firefighters from Pearl River County qualified for the World Finals in the Scott Firefighter Combat Challenge. The group that qualified, the “Pearl River Posse” were all over 40 years old, said Pine Grove Volunteer Fire Department Chief Steve Seal.
Seal said that due to financial constraints, the group will not be able to attend World Finals this year in Las Vegas, but the weekend of Oct. 12 and 13, the group competed in the U.S. Nationals in Montgomery, Ala.
The “Pearl River Posse,” finished third in the nation in the age 40 and older category at U.S. Nationals, Seal said.
Firefighters run a timed course up a 41-foot tall tower in full gear and wearing their air packs. Firefighters from Pearl River County competed in groups, tandem teams and individually. The course includes running a 42 pound air pack to the top of the tower, running a hose 75 feet and carrying a 185 pound dummy named “Rescue Randy” through the course.
The “Pearl River Posse” included Seal, Carriere Volunteer Fire Department Chief Chris Banks, Ronnie Reynolds of the Pine Grove Volunteer Fire Department, Donny Leonard Sr. of McNeill Volunteer Fire Department, and Tony Scharenhroch with the Southeast Volunteer Fire Department and St. Tammany Parish Fire District 1.
He said the firefighters, along with competing, handed out more than 100 free Bibles at the competition. Next year Seal said he hopes to start a church service for the competitors and their families to attend before the events.
The firefighters competing in the competition pay for their own expenses and the Bibles. Seal said the group is planning to compete next year and if anyone in the community is interested in making contributions to help with the teams’ expenses, they can contact Janet Guidry with the Picayune Fire Department at 601-799-0614.
Seal said the groups train throughout the year for the competition. He said there’s been a big push by United States Fire Administration to increase physical fitness because heart disease and stroke are the number one causes of death in firefighters.
“We started out just doing it to have fun, but firefighters are naturally competitive so it turned into a little more than that now,” Seal said.
Seal and Banks both said the event is family oriented and provides good clean entertainment.
Last year, Howell McCormick competed with the team at the World Finals. He was the oldest competitor at 70 years old.
Also competing in the competition were:
— The “Pearl River Heaters” team, which included, Joey Reynolds with Pine Grove VFD, Erin Seal with Pine Grove VFD, Jason Mitchell with Carriere VFD, Mike Smith with Carriere VFD and Donnie Leonard Jr. with McNeill VFD.
— Leonard Sr. and Banks in a tandem team.
— Jason Mitchell and Mike Smith in a tandem team.
— Leonard Jr. and Erin Seal in a tandem team.
Leonard Sr. and Leonard Jr. also competed in individual competitions.