Firefighter places high in Vegas

Published 12:00 am Thursday, November 16, 2006

By Sarah Light, staff writer

Daily training has paid off for one Albert Lea man.

Last week, local firefighter Kurt Wallace competed at the Firefighter Combat Challenge World Championships in Las Vegas and came out with a seventh-place victory.

Competing with people from Germany, France and other locations throughout the world, Wallace, an engineering technician and paid, on-call firefighter for the city of Albert Lea, ran the course in a personal record of 1 minute 39 seconds.

&8220;I was surprised,&8221; Wallace said of his time. &8220;My goal was to get 1:42. I didn&8217;t think that was going to happen until next year.&8221;

He also serves as a volunteer firefighter for Albert Lea Township.

His new time is a state record that also placed him into the Lion&8217;s Den Hall of Fame. To qualify for the Lion&8217;s Den, participants must run the course in under 100 seconds.

During the competition, participants first sprint to the top of a five-story tower while carrying 42 pounds of hose.

Then, while at the top of the tower, they use a rope to haul up a second 42 pound hose.

Next, they run back down the five flights of steps, use a nine-pound mallet to drive a 160 pound steel sled five feet forward, weave in and out of a series of hydrants and spray a target with a fully charged fire hose.

Finally, they drag a 175-pound dummy 100 feet to the finish line &8212; a series of tasks all done while wearing full gear.

&8220;It keeps you in shape,&8221; Wallace said.

He began competing in firefighter competitions last year and finished among the top-10 contestants in a qualifying competition in Rockford, Ill., May 27. He finished that race with a time of 1:45.

Although he has competed in other regional competitions, he said this was his first time to compete in an international competition.

&8220;It keeps me goal oriented,&8221; Wallace said. &8220;Gives me something to shoot for.&8221;

He is the defending Minnesota state champion in the sport.

He trains from 6 to 7:30 a.m., Mondays through Fridays, in a grain elevator outside of town.

For this competition, Wallace said he also watched DVDs of previous world championships to pick up on tips &8212; little things like foot placement and how to turn corners &8212; that can

shave seconds off of the time.

He said the competition has also helped him learn to push as hard as he can, for as long as he can.

The finals were originally supposed to be aired on ESPN, but because of financial difficulties, they were not.

Wallace wanted to thank his sponsors: Freeborn County Fire Association, Mrs. Gerry&8217;s Kitchen Inc., Sorensen Bros Inc., Clarey&8217;s Safety Equipment Inc., Minnesota Corrugated Box Inc.,, Country Inn & Suites By Carlson-Albert Lea, Lou-Rich Inc. and South Minnesota Lubes.