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Academy firefighters advance at world competition

MYRTLE BEACH, S.C. -- Several Air Force Academy firefighters ran seeding runs for World Firefighter Combat Challenge XIX here Nov. 9.

Tyler Moran, the newest member of Team USAFA, got a quick burst climbing the tower and burned through the course in 1:34.09 -- nearly 15 seconds faster than his finish in the regional competition at the Air Force Academy in June.

At regional firefighter challenges, an individual run of less than two minutes allows a participant to advance to the next level of competition, and the difference between first and second place is often fractions of a second. Mr. Moran ran 1:48.71 at the regional.

"Anytime you can run within two or three seconds of your personal record is a good day," said Moran. "That's only the third time I've run under a 1:40 time."

Course officials were a little less matter-of-fact about Mr. Moran's performance.

"All that training at high altitude has done him some good. He's here at sea level going, 'all this air is for me,'" joked course announcer Rex Nimrod, who has been on the course with every competitor who's run a Firefighter Combat Challenge event for the past decade.

Other Academy firefighters also clocked good times in individual runs. Senior Airman Jessica Morehouse cut 8 seconds off her personal record. Han Barkley used a strong finish to come in at 1:44.65, 7 seconds ahead of his competitor. Dan McAuliffe ran a 1:51.94, and Bill Gates ran a sub-90-second time, clocking in at 1:28.99 to Falconize the firefighter challenge while American and New Zealand competitors cheered him on.

Two of the firefighters on the Academy teams are from the Colorado Springs Fire Department. The CSFD has a tandem team competing at the world competition this week as well.

The two combined Academy-CSFD teams ran in the tandem and women's team runs. In the tandem category, Airman Morehouse and CSFD Lt. Stacey Billapando returned as the "Old Dog, New Trick" tandem that won the 2009 world title in the women's tandem category. Airman Morehouse had finished her individual run less than an hour earlier but showed no signs of fatigue as the duo finished the course at 2:06.38 -- a full minute ahead of their competitors.

Relay teams competed last in the day. The Fire Fembots, a combined Academy-CSFD women's relay team and the returning 2009 world champions for the women's relay, still holds the women's relay world record of 1:44.49. The Fembots returned this year with the exact same lineup but brought a few fans this year who wore black shirts with the words "Fembot Fanatics" written in pink. And the Fembots did not disappoint their traveling fans, running a time of 1:50.49 and virtually guaranteeing their appearance in the relay finals Nov. 13.

Most of the firefighters who watched the Fembots dominate their competition and who are competing at this year's world firefighter combat challenge come from civilian fire departments. But over the past few years, the Air Force has become a strong player on the world firefighter combat challenge stage. Several other military fire departments have made a dent on the world stage, including the Department of Defense Firefighter Academy from Goodfellow Air Force Base, Texas; as well as fire departments at Wright-Patterson AFB, Ohio; Spangdahlem Air Base, Germany; Canadian Forces Base Halifax and the Royal New Zealand air force. Each of these fire departments is competing in this year's world challenge along with military firefighters from F.E. Warren AFB, Wyo.; Shaw AFB, S.C.; and Whiteman AFB, Mo.