Why do firefighters need to be fit?

A firefighters role is extremely varied which involves working in a vast array of situations and environments including:

  • Hot and humid atmospheres.
  • Dark and confined spaces.
  • Oxygen deficient atmospheres.
  • Prolonged periods of physical activity.
  • Working long hours during the night when your body is telling you to rest.

The day to day work of a firefighter is also extremely varied and calls upon muscular strength, endurance and flexibility at different incidents.

Tasks that firefighters carry out at incidents can be very physical and include:

  • Running out lines of hose.
  • Climbing stairs of high rise buildings.
  • Pitching heavy ladders.
  • Hauling equipment up the outside of tall buildings using ropes.
  • Searching a smoke filled building for persons missing in full fire fighting clothing and breathing apparatus set.
  • Using breaking in tools to effect entry through security doors.
  • Carrying unconscious persons rescued from property fires.
  • Handling heavy hydraulic cutting equipment at road traffic collisions.
  • Working in confined spaces such as roof voids or tunnels.
  • Wearing hot and humid chemical protection suits.
  • Extinguish acres of grassland fires with hand beaters.

A typical house fire during the night is likely to involve a large physical and mental effort. Firstly, the human body is naturally less able during night time hours as it is programmed to sleep, which results in tiredness. On route to the incident, a firefighter is mentally preparing himself or herself to enter a house that is on fire, by dressing in firefighters protective clothing and breathing apparatus set that will protect them.

Once they arrive, the firefighting hose reel has to be dragged from its storage unit ready for deployment before a forced entry via the front door has to be made using breaking in tools.

Once inside, with temperature and humidity now extremely high, a search has to begin for the fire itself and any missing persons. Not only is the firefighter now crawling around in pitch darkness carrying out a detailed search, they are dragging a hose with them and other equipment such as thermal imaging camera.

At this point, a firefighters flexibility and endurance are tested as they negotiate obstacles and tight spaces and while trying to conserve air.

Once water is applied to a fire, the temperature rises further still as steam is produced which can worsen the conditions inside which in turn makes searching more difficult.

Once the missing person is found, the firefighter then calls upon their muscular strength to carry the person from the building, who can sometimes be heavier than they are themselves.

You can clearly see that a firefighter needs to be physically strong, flexible and have muscular endurance to work effectively.

Fitness is also important to combat fatigue. In a 15 hour night shift, a firefighter may attend numerous fires through the night, so needs to be able to cope with tiredness on a regular basis.

The working conditions can be stressful and test not only the physical ability of firefighters, but also their mental strength so it is vitally important that firefighters are fit for duty and may even make the difference between life and death.

Traycee Biancamano
Chief Executive Officer

United States First Responders Association
"Public Safety Serving Our Community Through Training, Tactics & Education"

Website: United States First Responders Assocation

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