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McKeesport firefighter to compete in national event

| Tuesday, Dec. 24, 2013, 10:18 a.m.
Photo Courtesy of Darrin Banfield
McKeesport firefighter Chris Cerci, left, finished third in his division at the Scott World Challenge in October to qualify for a national competition on Jan. 3.
Jennifer R. Vertullo | Daily News
Chris Cerci trains at the department's Renzie Park station using the Keiser Force Machine, a simulated forcible entry chopping device.

McKeesport firefighter Chris Cerci will compete against colleagues from across the nation at a special event at the Cotton Bowl in Arlington, Texas.

The Scott Firefighter Combat Challenge Lion Invitational is scheduled for Jan. 3.

Cerci qualified by placing third in the over-45 age division at the Scott World Challenge XXII in Las Vegas in October. He also competed in the open division and in the over-40 division.

Sixty-five qualified to participate in the World event; 23 advanced to the championship finals.

Cerci completed the course in less than 2 minutes.

The three categories of competition are individual; tandem, in which two competitors split the course; and relay, in which a team of three to five splits the course.

Cerci, 46, competes as an individual.

“I think I will fare pretty well at this Cotton Bowl event,” Cerci said. “The fact that the invitees all qualified by doing well at (the Scott World Challenge) means the competition will be extremely tough. I hope to finish in the top five in my division.”

Challenges include a high-rise pack carry, hose hoist, negotiating a 140-foot slalom course, dragging a charged hose line for 75 feet, and dragging a 175-pound Rescue Randy mannequin backward for 106 feet.

All competitors must use their own protective equipment, such as turnout gear, a helmet, coat, pants, gloves and boots. Equipment must be serviceable and approved for structural firefighting.

A Scott high pressure breathing apparatus is provided and must be worn by everyone in the individual/team categories.

Cerci's first competition was in 2001 in Baltimore.

“It completely opened my eyes in a very drastic way at just how difficult this competition was,” Cerci said. “I then understood how it earned its nickname — the toughest two minutes in sports.

“Over the years, learning to train properly for this specific event has played a large role in doing well,” he continued. “I also do not take time off in the off season. I train year round due to the fact I do not want to digress in my physical capability, both for the competitions and my job.”

Cerci also is a firefighter in Peters Township and Swissvale.

He recently was named one of the 100 fittest firefighters in the nation, and has been invited to compete at the Firefighter Throwdown in San Diego in February.

“I continue to compete because I have the competitive drive and I enjoy the camaraderie,” Cerci said. “I have made friends all over the world over the years. Just as importantly, I compete because doing so keeps me in top condition. Doing this job at times can be extremely, physically tasking, and worst-case scenario is that my physical capability may determine if I or someone else survives. I take that very seriously.”

Information about the firefighter challenge is available online at

Michael DiVittorio is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at 412-664-9161 ext. 1965, or