The Conway Fire Department kicked off its 20th annual Crawl, Drag and Squirt competition at Ellen Smith Elementary School on Monday.

Brian Moix, who retired from the fire department last year, birthed the competition which serves as an educational tool to help children get motivated and learn through hands-on experience what firefighters go through, in 1998.

The competition mirrors the Scott Firefighter Combat Challenge that the Conway Fire Department takes part in annually but is scaled down so that the children can effectively participate.

The miniaturized version of the combat challenge gives children the opportunity to compete while wearing firefighter gear. The children carry hoses, swing hammers, crawl through tunnels, drag dummies and squirt a fire hose to win awards and learn the firefighter experience.

Conway Public Schools Communication Specialist Heather Kendrick said the program provides students in the district the opportunity to build relationships as they take part in the eventful, friendly competition.

"Crawl, Drag and Squirt is such an excellent example of our core value of cultivating community relationships in our district," she said Monday. "A classic tradition that all elementary students look forward to each year, the contest is fun to watch and inspiring for everyone. We appreciate the firefighters for their efforts to bring this to our schools each year."

The program begins in April each year and the championship competition is held during Toad Suck Daze.

The first round of the 2018 Crawl, Drag and Squirt competition was held at 1 p.m. Monday at Ellen Smith Elementary School.

Students and parents lined the parking lot as Conway firefighters aided students who qualified to compete in the competition Monday afternoon.

Among students participating in the competition Monday was second-grader Ronald "R2" Weaver.

R2 returned to the school earlier this year following a temporary leave after he suffered third-degree burns over nearly 40 percent of his body after being accidentally burned in a campfire last fall.

His father, Destin Weaver, said he was thankful for the Conway Fire Department for providing his son the opportunity to participate in Monday's competition.

R2 was also grateful for the opportunity.

"It was fun," he said of competing, noting he enjoyed "being able to spray my friends since I can't get wet."

Competitions will continue across the district throughout the month. Upcoming competitions include:

Woodrow Cummins Elementary School at 1 p.m. Tuesday. Ida Burns Elementary School at 1 p.m. Wednesday. Florence Mattison Elementary School at 1 p.m. Thursday. Julia Lee Moore Elementary School at 1 p.m. Friday. Marguerite Vann Elementary School at 12:30 p.m. April 16. Conway Christian at 9 a.m. April 19. Theodore Jones Elementary School at 1 p.m. April 20. Jim Stone Elementary School at 12:30 p.m. April 25. St. Joseph Elementary School at 1 p.m. April 26. Carolyn Lewis Elementary School at 1 p.m. April 27.

CFD Assistant Chief Todd Cardin said he is excited to lead the fire department in carrying on Moix's legacy in this event this year.

"I'm looking forward to try to fill the big shoes Chief Moix left for me," he told the Log Cabin on Monday. "This was truly his passion and I hope to continue that tradition. I really enjoy watching the kids get excited about Crawl, Drag and Squirt. To see the amount of parents and grandparents that show up to cheer their kids on is truly an amazing thing."

The program opens up to elementary students out in the county during a qualifying round May 4 at Central Station. During this final event, Conway schools will narrow their competitors to 80 students for the championship competition, which is scheduled to begin at 11:30 a.m. May 5 during Toad Suck Daze.

"The Conway Fire Department started this program to help combat childhood obesity as well as using it as an outreach program to the public," Moix has previously said. "This program is loved by kids and parents alike, not many people in Conway or surrounding areas have not heard or participated in the program."