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TV network showcases Clayton firefighters

By Joel Hall

jhall@news-daily.com

The Clayton County Fire Department gained worldwide recognition this fall when its firefighters dominated the world Firefighter Combat Challenge in Las Vegas, Nev., bringing home three world titles.

This weekend, the Versus television network will air the final episode of the week-long competition.

The championship rounds of the 2008 Firefighter Combat Challenge will air on the Versus channel Jan. 24, at 3 p.m., and Jan. 26, at 4:30 p.m.

Landry Merkison, a fire department battalion chief, said having firefighters on television puts the county on a positive world stage. "It puts Clayton County in the living room of the entire nation," Merkison said. "It's a positive reflection on Clayton County, and ... something the people of Clayton County can be proud of."

In November, on Freemont Street in Las Vegas, Clayton's firefighters bested teams from North Carolina, Canada, Europe, and the U.S. Military, in competitions of agility, speed, strength, and firefighting techniques. Among their tasks, competitors were required to unscrew fire hydrants, lift heavy hoses through obstacle courses, and drag life-like dummies to safety.

Teams from Clayton County became world champions in the men's open relay, and the women's relay, for the first time. In addition, the county's over-40 relay team captured first place for an unprecedented third year in a row.

Merkison said this is the first time in the competition's 17-year history that a single fire department has taken first place in all three relay categories. He said the feat was even more spectacular given the fact that the entire team is composed of full-time firefighters.

"The things that separate these firefighters is that they are real firefighters," he said. "The military teams are considered the powerhouses because they train constantly. They don't have second jobs like we do. They don't stay up all night answering calls like we do."

"They [Clayton firefighters] train for this on top of what they have to do," Merkison continued. "I think that the people of the community can be proud that their firefighters have this level of commitment to their community."

The Versus network is channel 44 on Comcast Cable Television and channel 82 on Charter Cable Television.