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Grand Rapids to host West Michigan's first-ever Firefighter Challenge

Grand Rapids Fire Department conducts rope rescue exercise
Posted at 9:34 PM, Mar 30, 2022

GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. — A big event is coming to Grand Rapids this summer. For the first time, West Michigan is hosting the Firefighter Challenge.

It's more than firefighters competing to show who can come out on top. New this year, organizers are allowing everyone to compete.

"So excited. I mean, how cool would that be for Grand Rapids to host this?" Battalion Chief Kathleen Tompson told FOX 17.

Grand Rapids is becoming the backdrop for the toughest of the tough this summer.

"It's going to be kind of like a fitness firefighter festival," Tompson said.

Firefighters and anyone else can show what they got the weekend of July 29 at Calder Plaza.

"What's so neat about it is it offers an opportunity for the general public to see how hard our job is, and they're even allowed to compete with us," Tompson said.

The challenges consist of carrying a hose several flights of stairs, forcible entry and carrying a victim across the finish line.

"Hopefully, it will promote the fire service in general. People will see what a cool job that we actually have, and maybe want to participate because we need to hire more firefighters nationwide," she said.

Like many fire companies around the nation, Grand Rapids also faces recruitment challenges.

Data from the city shows in 2019 shows there were 1,281 applicants. Two years later, 703 were looking to be firefighters.

Grand Rapids Firefighter Applicants (1).png

Tompson hopes this event is going to boost those numbers.

"Hopefully, that'll help Grand Rapids, but hopefully it'll help the fire service profession. In general, Michigan-wide," she said.

GRFD used $5,000 from the department's general fund to get where we are today, bringing the event to GR.

In total, it'll cost up to $26,000.

The department plans to raise the remainder from sponsors and fundraising.

"This is an opportunity to lift up and celebrate first responders, and it gets to show us and our love for serving. And hopefully, it developed some community appreciation for us," she said.

Prices for entry into this challenge range from $25 to $40.

Tompson says there's also an opportunity for teams to compete and raise money for their fundraiser.

You can sign up here. (Registration hasn't opened as of March 30)

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