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Firefighter Combat Challenge Set to Ignite in Oak Forest

The Firefighter Combat Challenge pits firefighters from all over against one another in skilled competition over a four-day event. The challenge kicks off Thursday, Sept. 13 and runs through Sunday, Sept. 16.

There's about to be a few more firefighters in Oak Forest—about 500 more.

The firefighters aren't rolling into town on a call; instead the group will take part in the National Firefighter's Combat Challenge 2012. Last year the event was held in Tinley Park, and this year Oak Forest gets the nod.

Last year's event served as a fundraiser for Division 24, a group of about 21 fire departments in the area. It will operate the same this year, with hopes of raising more money for the division and sending a few local firefighters to the challenge finals in Myrtle Beach, S.C. in October.

“Last year we broke about even,” said Charley Sopko, Deputy Chief of the . “This year we're hoping to do even better.”

The four-day event kicks off Thursday, Sept. 13, with a viewing party for the Bears versus Packers game in the beer tent, located at 159th and Central Avenue. The viewing party will feature area fire chiefs and firemen as bartenders.

On Friday, the real fun begins, Sopko said—a day of the high school challenge, public relays and live entertainment.

“Last year, we did the high school challenge: two teams of students, one of freshmen and sophomores against juniors and seniors,” he said. “It was really fun and the organizers of the event were so impressed they've been telling other events about it. We're really looking forward to it again this year.”

On Saturday, it's the professionals turn to hit the course in one-man, tandem and five-person teams. Sopko said that winners each race could advance to the National Finals in October, which is one of the perks of competing.

“This is a critical time for the guys who are competing,” he said. “If they qualify for Nationals, they're heading to Myrtle Beach, competing against guys from across the country.”

Saturday will also feature 's Craft Beer Festival—$20 in advance or $30 at the door— and live music from The Hat Guys from 8 to 11 p.m., Sopko said.

Sunday kicks off with a pancake breakfast—$5 at the door—and then concludes with the finals of the competition. There will also be a kids challenge for the youngsters in attendance, Sopko said.

Attending the Combat Challenge is free for all in attendance, Sopko added, although there is a $20 fee, per person, to take part in the relays on Saturday.

More information about the event can be found at the challenge website, here.

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