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Rural/Metro’s Hughes top U.S. firefighter
Hughes first firefighter from state to win national title, out scores national competitors in Ottawa, Canada, events despite injury

Rural/Metro firefighter Matt Kinney, 21, who is assigned to Fire Station 10 along with Lt. Libby Hughes, demonstrates how to negotiate the Keiser Force machine for the recovering Hughes. Kinney, a 2000 Farragut High School graduate, has been with Rur- Dan Barile/farragutpress
Lt. Libby Hughes was modest, to say the least, as media, politicians and fellow firefighters gathered at the Rural/Metro Station 10 firehall on Parkside Drive Monday, Dec. 1, to honor her for a stellar effort at the Firefighter Combat Challenge International Championship World Challenge XII.

For more than a year, Hughes has been on a mission. Her specially made T-shirt says it all: “Obsessed is the word the lazy use to criticize the dedicated.”

That slogan alone reflects Hughes’ philosophy toward achieving her goal: To win the U.S. Grand National Points Championship and compete at the Firefighter Combat Challenge International Championship World Challenge on Nov. 8.

Like NASCAR’s Winston Cup, points determine the rankings in the combat challenge. Hughes, who is celebrating a decade of service with Rural/Metro this week, has been competing for points throughout the year and has maintained a consistent lead in the standings. Her best time to complete the grueling course was three minutes on April 23 in Pigeon Forge at a regional competition.

The course consists of: 1) Carrying a 45-pound high-rise pack – 100 feet of 1 3/4-inch hose – up a five-story tower; 2) Pulling a 42-pound “doughnut roll’ – a roll of 4-inch fire hose – up a rope to the top of the competition tower; 3) Running down the steps of the tower to a Keiser Force machine, where a 9-pound shot mallet is used to move a 160-pound beam five feet; 4) Pulling a charged – water ready – 1 3/4-inch hose line 75 feet, then hit a target with a stream of water; and 5) Pulling a 175-pound rescue dummy backward 100 feet, all in less that six minutes for a female and two minutes for a male.

Hughes, whose shyness at public awards events disguises her toughness, is one truly tough competitor. She is so tough, Rural/Metro spokesperson Ranee Randby said, “She achieved her goal while on crutches recovering from an Achilles tendon injury.”

“Despite an Achilles tendon injury Libby suffered in a pickup basketball game, surgery and missing the last four competitions, she still had accumulated enough points to win the U.S. Grand National Championship,” Randby said.

“I have to thank my guys,” Hughes said at the award presentation. “Without their help, I wouldn’t have been able to get as far as I did.

“Staying fit is part of my job as a firefighter,” she said. “When someone needs my help, I have to be at my best. That’s what is so cool about the combat Challenge – all aspects of the competition are based on firefighter fitness.”

Hughes first qualified for the world championship in 2000. She finished 14th in the world with a course time of three-minutes-38-seconds. She is the only woman from any Rural/Metro Fire Department to qualify for the world championship.

Tennessee State Fire Commissioner Paula A. Flowers, who presented Hughes with a special award from Gov. Phil Bredesen, said the state is very proud of Hughes’ accomplishments and pointed out that Hughes is not only the first female firefighter to win the Combat Challenge, but she is the first firefighter in the state to win a national title.

Flowers said the competition is important because the fitness of firefighters in the state is a major factor in reducing Tennessee’s standing of having the second highest rate of fire deaths in the United States.

“Our rate of fire deaths is twice the national average,” She said. “The most vulnerable age groups are our children who are five-years-old and younger and our elderly.”

Rural/Metro Fire Chief Karl Keierleber said, “Libby excels in everything she puts her mind to, so I’m not surprised by her success in the combat Challenge. Rural/Metro Fire Department is very proud of what she has accomplished.”

“We have all enjoyed cheering Libby on in her point pursuit,” said Susan Brown, president

of Rural/Metro’s Southern Emergency Services group. “Her dedication is very impressive, and her success has been exciting to watch.”

The Firefighter Combat Challenge is the only nationally televised sports event that has its roots in a federally funded research grant.

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