Editor’s note: Dr. Paul Davis, founder of the Scott Safety Firefighter Combat Challenge, reflects on 25 years of the firefighter fitness event. The 25th World Championships take place this week in Montgomery, Alabama.

I joined the Montgomery County Maryland fire service in 1966 and loved absolutely everything about it. That was during the time when the fire service was just beginning to provide definitive care outside of the hospital. In support of that progress, I enthusiastically joined and graduated with the first class of licensed paramedics in 1972.

Thereafter, I became a Pro-Board certified Firefighter III and my last assignment in Montgomery County was as Lieutenant-Instructor at the Academy where we trained and certified every firefighter as an EMT. When I was subsequently offered a full-time faculty position in a doctoral program at the University of Maryland, I jumped at the opportunity. Although I didn’t know where all of this would take me, I was sure it was going to be a great ride. I certainly haven’t been disappointed.

Laying the Foundation

It’s hard to believe that the majority of our Scott Firefighter Combat Challenge competitors hadn’t been born when my colleagues and I conducted and published our ground-breaking fire service occupational physiology research in 1976. The Sports Medicine Center of the University of Maryland’s School of Public Health provided the facilities and support for the study and was one of the first recipients of federal funding that would ultimately become the FEMA Grant Program. In fact, our research study and the University of Maryland provided the incubator for the Firefighter Combat Challenge and the Maryland Fire Rescue Institute was the very first host of the Challenge in 1991.

Although we don’t know the exact number, more than 30,000 North American firefighters have participated in the Challenge over the years. And, it is very encouraging that Combat Challenge participation continues to grow as thousands more in many countries across Europe and the rest of the world have joined their ranks. Importantly, we can also be very proud that the exposure of the Scott Firefighter Challenge to the “general market” public – our ultimate stakeholders – has been profound. In the U.S. this year alone we are on track to break the 50 million gross media impressions mark. 50 million! Remarkable.

The Scott Partnership

With extraordinary vision, Scott Safety joined the Challenge in 1994, claiming “title” in 1997. There are no words that can adequately express our and the Challenge family’s genuine appreciation for their incredible support. As the undisputed leader within the fire/rescue industry – and a tireless supporter of corporate responsibility and public safety – there is not another company on the face of the earth that has so heavily invested in firefighter fitness and safety. Thank you Scott Safety!

Vital to our success throughout the years – this “Challenge with a Purpose” has proven that the proverbial “rising tide” lifts all boats – a visible presence throughout the country that reminds our competitors, our customers and the public we protect that “We’re in the Life and Death Business” and cannot be satisfied with the status quo.

To our hosts – It’s like “Homecoming Week” to be back in Montgomery, Alabama. No host has ever been better prepared not exuded “Southern Hospitality” like Montgomery. To Mayor Todd Strange, Fire Chief Milford Jordan, District Chief Russ Collier and every member of Montgomery Fire/Rescue, we say a heart-felt “thank you!”

To our competitors – I wish to express my appreciation to every one of you who has dedicated yourself to be as good as you can be! To my tireless crew, Kudos! Working in weather extremes and long hours, your dedication is tireless and appreciated by all.

Finally, when reflecting upon the amazing culture that has become the Scott Firefighter Challenge over these past 25 years, it has been an incredible experience. Thank you all! I’m so glad that I didn’t miss the opportunity! And, here’s to the next 25!