Fit For Fire: eye-opening, team-first workouts for would-be fire recruits—and the curious

In an emergency response a firefighter wears more than 50 pounds of Personal Protective Equipment (PPE).

Now, take those 50 pounds and factor in the weight of additional tools, task-specific gear, and intense heat. That’s a heavy test of endurance before even considering the gravity of a potential rescue.

A high level of physical fitness is clearly required in professional firefighting. But don’t let that dampen your enthusiasm about pursuing a career with Edmonton Fire Rescue Services (EFRS).

One of the core values of EFRS is Teamwork. Each platoon, each station, each crew member, and each member of the organization works as a team—and teams are founded on support.

The Recruitment and Outreach team wanted to extend this support to citizens interested in joining EFRS. And so, in May 2019, EFRS launched the Fit For Fire program to introduce Edmontonians and prospective recruits to the organization’s fitness standards.

Led by off-duty EFRS members, the program featured cardiovascular exercises in Kinsmen Park and other river valley locations while showcasing the ins and outs of the physical fitness test—a challenging component of the multi-faceted recruitment process.

EFRS member and Fit for Fire instructor

EFRS member and Fit for Fire instructor

“We wanted to show Edmontonians what it physically takes to be professional firefighters,” said Outreach Coordinator Lance Prefontaine.
“Many participants were applicants looking to practice for their physical fitness tests and many came to ask questions about the recruitment process. A community of individuals interested in firefighting formed to help and support one another and I’m proud of what became of the program this summer.”

“As an aspiring firefighter, it’s awesome to learn firsthand from qualified people. The teamwork and camaraderie was inspiring and gave me a boost to push myself to work harder and become a team member.” – Fit For Fire participant

During the official EFRS physical fitness test (the follow-up to recruitment’s aptitude test), candidates undergo an aerobic endurance evaluation on a treadmill to measure peak oxygen uptake before engaging in job-related performance exercises. These exercises are made up of:

  • an equipment carry and vehicle extrication simulation,
  • a charged hose advance,
  • a weighted sled pull,
  • a forcible entry simulation,
  • a victim rescue simulation, and 
  • a ladder climb

All trials require PPE and an accompanying Self-Contained Breathing Apparatus (SCBA) to be worn—the 50 pounds+ mentioned above.

Fit For Fire participants used simulation tools and the breathing apparatus to get a feel for the challenge of the physical fitness test.

 

Vehicle extrication simulation

Vehicle extrication simulation

Individuals from various backgrounds—current EFRS applicants, first responders from other emergency response agencies, accountants, teachers, recent high school and post-secondary graduates, and people simply looking for a vigorous workout—participated in the free program over the summer months.

“The Fit For Fire program has been incredibly beneficial in helping me prepare and improve my ability to complete the physical. While I was unsuccessful this past year for Edmonton Fire, I think this program will better prepare me for next year…Thank you so much for offering this program to Edmonton residents; it’s been an excellent networking opportunity.” – Fit For Fire participant

Teamwork: concluding Q+A period

Teamwork: concluding Q+A period

 “There is an underestimated benefit to networking before and during the application and recruitment process,” said Prefontaine. 

“The physical fitness test is designed to challenge our participants physically in the real-life emergency ground requirements of our occupation, and guidance from EFRS members who have made it through is an invaluable tool towards success.”

Fit For Fire’s pilot phase concluded on Tuesday, August 20. Future plans are now in discussion. For more information on the program, please visit edmonton.ca/fitforfire.

Main photo: Fit For Fire session in Kinsmen Park

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