May 3, 2023

2023 Firefighter Challenge and Stihl Timbersports® Are Coming To Virginia Beach May 11-13!

VIRGINIA BEACH, Va. (May 3, 2023) - Get ready for three AXE-tion-packed days in Virginia Beach as the Festival of Champions returns on May 11-13 to Mount Trashmore Park, 310 Edwin Drive. The Firefighter Challenge will feature the strongest and toughest firefighters on the eastern seaboard, competing right alongside the best lumberjack athletes in the nation in STIHL TIMBERSPORTS®. The public, along with aspiring firefighters, are invited to attend this free, family friendly event to cheer on these amazing heroes. The complete schedule of events for the Virginia Beach Festival of Champions can be found below.

Members of the FCL: Firefighter Challenge League from around the country will converge on Virginia Beach to compete in the 2023 Southeast Firefighter Challenge Championship. Sponsored by the City of Virginia Beach, STIHL and the Virginia Beach Fire Department, the public will have a front row seat to witness the physical talents of these public safety professionals in action on the LION® Arena of the Brave challenge course. "I have always believed that the Virginia Beach Fire Department is among the most highly skilled and dedicated in the country. Every spring, they –along with firefighters from across the country – put that training and discipline to a grueling test of skills and fitness known as the Firefighter Challenge, I always look forward to it and I expect another outstanding event this May," stated Virginia Beach Mayor Robert R. "Bobby" Dyer.

The Firefighter Challenge is designed to promote, showcase, and publicly celebrate the selfless spirit and extraordinary physical preparedness of firefighters. "Competitors in the Challenge are segmented into 3 Divisions: Developmental, Competitive and Pro, and compete in an assortment of age and gender brackets", says Russell A. Jackson, CEO of the First Responder Institute. "At the end of this event, the 2023 Regional Champions will be named as well as the Overall Event Champions. These incredible firefighter athletes train year-round to not only perform at their best in this competition but to also be at their best when responding to your 911 emergency." The Firefighter Challenge is an excellent way for firefighters to demonstrate the critical tasks completed on most fires. It allows the public to get a view of the physical demands and how efficiently our members can complete these tasks, stated Fire Chief Ken Pravetz.

STIHL TIMBERSPORTS® is hosting two extreme lumberjack competitions at the lakefront stage. Watch the sawdust fly as these extraordinary athletes chop and saw their way through various disciplines using razor sharp axes and high-powered chainsaws. The U.S. Rookie Championship features the next generation of lumberjack athlete superstars face off for the title. The U.S. Trophy is the sport's most physically demanding competition, with the nation's top 12 athletes competing in four disciplines back-to-back in grueling knockout match-ups, all in less than two minutes. "There's going to be a lot of adrenaline flowing through Virginia Beach," said Roger Phelps, corporate communications manager at STIHL Inc. "We expect the firefighters and our lumberjack athletes to leave the crowds in shock and awe as they compete for some prestigious national titles. There's a lot on the line at the Festival of Champions."

Event Information

9:00 a.m. – Firefighter Challenge: Wildcard Qualifying Rounds for the Individual Category

FRIDAY – May 12
7:30 a.m. – Firefighter Challenge: Open Practice
9:00 a.m. – Firefighter Challenge: Relay Seeding and Tandem Category Title Competition
11:30 a.m. – Firefighter Challenge: Relay Category Title Competition
5:00 p.m. – STIHL TIMBERSPORTS® U.S. Rookie Championship

9:00 a.m. – Opening Ceremony
9:30 a.m. – Firefighter Challenge: Southeast Regional Individual Category Title Competition Final
1:00 p.m. – STIHL TIMBERSPORTS® U.S. Trophy

About Firefighter Challenge

The Firefighter Challenge is a program of the First Responder Institute, a 501(c)(3) nonprofit. Challenge participants run the job skills-based course tackling the Five Essential Functions™ wearing full turnout gear and a self-contained breathing apparatus provided by 3M™ Scott Fire & Safety. Participants have three main categories to compete in: individual, tandem (2-person), and relay (5-person). Competitions simulate the physical demands of real-life firefighting by climbing the five-story tower, hoisting, chopping, dragging hoses, and rescuing a life-sized, 175-pound "victim" as they race against themselves, their opponents, and the clock.

STIHL TIMBERSPORTS® – The Original Extreme Sport – features the nation's best lumberjack athletes going head-to-head in six thrilling disciplines: the underhand chop, stock saw, standing block chop, single buck, springboard chop and hot saw. STIHL TIMBERSPORTS® has grown to become a worldwide phenomenon with National Championships in 27 countries. For more info, visit


VBFD PIO, (757) 385-2877,

Erin Goldmeier, (757) 385-6605.,

Russell A. Jackson, (205)-936-3361,

Shannon Stern, (443) 341-7310,

Contact Information

Contact Information

VBFD Public Information Officer

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