Members of USF’s Greek system recently braved a wet, dreary November afternoon to show off their firefighting skills. Don’t worry - they weren’t putting out any real fires during the first annual "Fireman's Challenge."
“We have five obstacle courses. All the obstacle courses mimic what firefighters go though in order to become a firefighter—their physical examination," said Jordan Romero, a member of the USF chapter of the Pi Kappa Alpha fraternity.
Pi Kappa Alpha hosts similar challenges at chapters across the country.
“In our history, a sorority house caught on fire and our brothers were the first ones there. And because of that, firefighters have become our unofficial mascot for our fraternity. They represent our values and our traditions, and that’s why we support the firefighters,” said Romero, a senior majoring in Management and Leadership.
More than 400 students from nine fraternities and sororities took part in the competition, which included races that involved a rope course, dragging a fire hose and even putting on firefighters’ gear and running with an oxygen tank.
“I am a Tampa boy, born and raised, and I know that USF is a huge part of the Tampa Bay economy and the community," Romero said as he stood in front of a Tampa Fire Rescue engine. "And I wanted to make sure when I planned this event that the money that we raise stays in the Tampa community and the Tampa Bay area.”
Tampa Fire Rescue Chief Tom Forward was especially appreciative of that generosity.
“You don’t consider that students, especially college students at this point, would be considerate of a public safety entity, or emergency response, or giving back to the community. So, when they approached us and said ‘We would like to consider doing this,’ obviously we were just overwhelmed with it," Forward said.
Forward and his firefighters provided advice and assistance to the competitors. He added that he was impressed with how realistic the challenges were.
“With respect to the physical capabilities that are required to do the job; with respect to the mindset that they’re also going to have to realize; and the teamwork that’s involved in what it is they are going to be doing here," Forward said. "It’s very important that if you’re going to be successful, especially in our business, in fire service and emergency response, it’s a team-oriented posture, which means everyone has to be in sync."
That teamwork especially came in handy during the competition’s final event—the fire truck pull, where up to 40 members of each team grabbed hold of two ropes and tried to see how far and how fast they could pull a real Tampa Fire Rescue truck. Forward had some words of advice for the students brave enough to try to drag the metal behemoth.
“First of all, you have to have some really, really strong and brute (force) working in unison; and once you start that initial thrust - where you exert all that energy to get that vehicle rolling - don’t stop! You gotta dig in and you gotta lean forward, and you gotta never say die!” Forward said energetically.
While Sigma Nu ended up winning the overall fraternity competition and Sigma Delta Tau was the top sorority, Romero said the Challenge was a success for everyone who came together to raise more than $9,000 for the Tampa Fire Rescue Memorial.
“It shows that the Greek community is great; we support each other," said Romero. "We aren’t just about our stereotypes. We come together to (raise) money, to support the community and the Tampa Bay area, and our values.”