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Altus AFB holds firefighter challenge for commanders

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ALTUS, Okla_This is fire prevention week and it's normally geared for kids. But on Thursday, nearly a dozen First Commanders at Altus Air Force Base traded their flight uniforms for bunker gear. The base's fire department held its second annual Group Commander and First Sergeant Challenge. Airmen ran an obstacle course similar to what firefighters would face during a real fire. The course included a 'dummy drag,' a race up several flights of stairs and a hose-carry, just to name a few.

Few people believe being a firefighter is easy, but spend a few minutes in bunker gear running an obstacle course will make you realize just how much harder their job really is.

Altus Air Force Base Lieutenant Colonel Tanya Anderson serves as the base Fire Marshal, involved in investigations and enforcement of fire codes. But today, she got a chance to get a glimpse of life on the front line.

"It was pretty challenging. You'd think as the fire marshal I would get a little practice time in, but you don't but you just gain a whole new appreciation."

Her biggest challenge was one that doesn't sound all that hard.

"Finishing the run, running up the stairs and actually doing the hose pull up and over the wall, definitely the hardest event."

Fire fighters say even though the obstacle course is just a simulation, it accurately tests the skills needed in actual emergencies.

"This is extremely real, this is how we train our firemen on a day to day basis. Smoke filled rooms, something we practice every month multiple times. Same thing with pulling hoses, it is something the guys are going to have to do anytime there is a fire, they are going to pull hose. Using a Keiser sled sledgehammer is simulating ventilating a roof."

For Altus Air Force Base Security Commander Major Mike Jewell, today's obstacle course is something he knows all too well.

"It's very quick. It's hard to do when you're doing it all at once, you can't really afford to pace yourself, because when lives are on the line, there's no pacing yourselves you have to get in and get it done."

Major Jewell and his partner won the competition with a time of 2:30.

The Fire Prevention Week's theme this year is "Have Two Ways Out." Fire officials say too often people depend on one exit to escape a fire and that many times it fails. They say having two exits increases your chance of surviving a fire.

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