Horry County Fire Rescue not only can say it has the most fit, dedicated and knowledgeable firefighters in the world, it has a medal and plaque to prove it.
Team Horry, the group of elite firefighters from Horry County Fire and Rescue who have been recognized at the national and world levels as some of the best in the world, took first place in the Scott Firefighter Combat Challenge just before the AT&T Cotton Bowl earlier this month at AT&T Stadium in Dallas.
“It was surreal,” said Michael Medeiros, a firefighter who went on the trip. “Being in front of over 100,000 spectators and fans in the stands, to be in a dome the size that it was, and to have the privilege to hold the American flag during those ceremonies and have them watch us on the Jumbotron, it was just surreal. It was something we never experienced.
“It was definitely a privilege to be a part of that.”
Medeiros joined fellow firefighters David Howell, Aaron Windsor, Kenneth Norton, Michael Mabe and alternate Ryan Smith who, as a team, simulated real-life challenges of firefighters while wearing full bunker gear.
“It was a very unique experience for our sport, an opportunity to grow our sport and show people how exciting of a sport it is,” Howell said. “Having [AT&T] Stadium as a backdrop added to the scenery, added to the excitement of it.”
Last year, Team Horry finished in second place in both a world competition and a national competition similar to what was done in Dallas, and this win was reassuring for the team entering the new year, Howell said.
“We made a bold statement right off the bat,” he said. “There was a build-up to that because we had fallen short at the national competition and the world competition, coming second in both of those, and we thought we were better than that.”
Howell said the win shows the team’s dedication.
“That’s really what it takes, because we’re taking away time from our families and not getting anything extra for it,” Howell said.
The team members travel and train on their own time and use sponsorships to fund their activities. He said the members do it “just to prove that Horry County Fire and Rescue is one of the elite fire departments in the country, and that’s really what it comes down to.”
Team Horry has been competing in the Scott Firefighter Challenge since 2002, and in a similar capacity statewide since 1998.
The challenge at the Cotton Bowl featured the top 16 relay teams, top 18 individual males, top eight females, top 10 males over 40 and top four males over 50. It was televised, in part, live before the Cotton Bowl and shown sporadically throughout the game.
Medeiros said the team plans to keep its title of the best well into the new year.
“Winning that made up for that second place at worlds,” Medeiros said. “Now we know that, starting in 2014, we are the No. 1 team in the world. We want to continue that trend the rest of the year.
“To top this sport, you have to be the best. Not only the best, but the fittest firefighters there are. With that, when we are out there competing and we’re winning, you have a lot of departments worldwide looking at that as we must be doing something right.”