This has been bugging me for most of the day. My fire department was featured on a regional newscast and of course everyone showed up. Well my son who is 350lbs was in the background and someone made  a comment about his size on Delawarefirefighter.com. It didn't bother me that the comment was made because of the person who made. What bothered me was the fact that as a large person he was automatically discounted as a fire fighter. I've always been a lagre guy and I've always been able to do the job. When I wasn't I stopped.

 

But what about the skinny guy. Is he in shape or just skinny. Just because you don't have a big gut doesn't mean your in firefighting shape. It just means you have genetics that make you a certain size. My best friend always look like he was in shape until we raced once. He couldn't go telephone pole to telephone pole.

 

There was talk about giving physicals to FF's. My issue is what are they checking for, high blood pressure, good heart, eyesight, hearing? How about endurance, stamina and agility. You would be surprised how many people can't carry a role of hose 1000 feet.

 

Years ago on talk shop that I can't recall the name had a large FF and a model looking FF. And they asked people which one they would  want to save them. Of couse almost all picked the model looking FF. Well the fat FF had 20 years experience and was an officer of his department and the model was a proby. He even said he would pick the fat guy because of experiece.

 

Basically what I just spent 4 paragraghs writing is never judge a book by its cover.

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Something else was brought up that I touched on also. Physicals. As a volunteer I have no issue taking a physical. Many people can't afford one or haven't taken one since school. And what should it entail. Besides the medical side fitness and endurance. Someone (I apologize for not giving you credit) stated the test Pack test which would be great. But what would happen if someone failed a physical. Would diabetes disqualify them, Overweight, underweight, High blood pressure, unable to complete an endurance test?

As many of us now Vollies are in short supply at times. Let say you have 2 packed qualified guys, and 2 guys that aren't pack qualified. Why couldn't all four ride. There are alot of functions that need to be completed on a fire ground. I have high blood pressure (very high), I'm overweight and wouldn't be able to pass an endurance test, But I can drive, I can pull hose and throw a ladder which I used to do when I responded.

Also how much is the fire company responsible is something is found? Just some thought first thing in the snowy morning...okay 9-55 isn't usually first thing in the morning.
@Chief Mike,
AMEN to that.
Craig,

The pack test referred to is for wildland FF vs the structural side. The issue with the physical may not be a job contingent aspect, meaning you have to meet physical standards to do the job, but something to record a baseline and give a FF insight on their overall health. I can say for certainty there a current career FF's with diabetes, whose depts have annual physicals, and they are on the job. There are guys with high BP, cholesterol, overweight, etc who can do the job.

A physical really doesn't have to be an obstacle for doing the job, but should be done to determine a person's general health. Having a physical when one starts with a dept, or everyone if no program is in place, establishes a baseline, it identifies areas of concern such as HTN, diabetes, overweight, etc, so the individual can work to improve.

Going back to my previous post here regarding the overweight FF, yes one can do the job, but again being able to do the job should not be an excuse not to strive for improvement. Being overweight can become a liability to a crew if you get winded pulling a line, can't climb stairs etc. Establishing a physical and fitness programs helps identify those areas to improve. Another important aspect to consider is any legal type of implications where a claim could be made about an on job injury.....if no baseline, how do you say the injury or medical issue was from doing the job?
Craig,

Hopefully you are being treated for your (very) high blood pressure. Extreme physical exertion with very high blood pressure could be catastrophic for you. One of the easiest ways to control blood pressure is a change in diet, weight loss and exercise.

As far as weight issues go, I would think that -with few exceptions- anyone determined to be obese as a result of a physical would not be able to perform safely or effectively. Both high blood pressure and (adult) diabetes are usually the result of being overweight.

Granted that some people may be able to carry more weight on them as a result of a larger frame (greater bone density) but overall, the BMI (while truly not that accurate) does show where a person falls on a height/weight ratio gradient. As an example I can (an do) carry more weight on my frame than my twin brother simply because I have always done physical work while he has always done desk work. Physical work increases both muscle mass and bone density so one could fall into the overweight range simply as a result of being 'muscle bound' (not the case with me).

As far as skinny goes, there is also a problem with being underweight. Not so much health issues but physical strength; a lack of physical strength is going to impact endurance as well. In my opinion there is a difference between scrawny (little muscle mass) and wirey (thin but with defined muscularity). But being skinny usually does NOT imply related health concerns as does being overweight.

Overall being overweight is significantly more dangerous health-wise due to related (potential) health issues, short term and long term. Being skinny means a person may not have the physical strength but that can be easily rectified by exercise.
i'm 335 pounds and i been working on my weight for about a year. i been with the fire service for 11 years and i seen more skinny people go down when fighting fires such as house and grass fires. to me i think these guys just don't know when to really stop working so fast and work at a pase that will get the job done.
Hey Texas ia pretty darn big have you ever tried to go from one end to the other in a day?
Having been both the fat guy and the skinny guy, I am now the fit, not quite skinny guy.

I thought I could do the job at 245, and if I was doing juice and carrying a crapload of muscle, then maybe I could, but one morning in September or Oct ober of 2008 I found out just how much taht extra 45 pounds of weight was hurting me.

NO you should not judge a book by it's cover, but unless you are 6'3" plus carrying 300 pounds makes you a risk to not only your fire department, but the community you are tasked with protecting.

We are required to take a physical and a fitness test yearly. (Unfortunately the Unions in their infinite wisdom chose to give the fitness test no teeth) At the very least we are expected to do 1 hour in the gym daily (per shift) That is far better than the old ways...

To be a line firefighter you should be able to pass one of the good fitness tests (CPAT, Pack Test, Combat Challenge, etc...) Have a real physical that is geared for firefighters with Cardio and Respiratory output, and be on some fitness program.

What is it now 40% of LODD's are "Stress" related, meaning Heart Attacks. Come on brothers and sisters we can do better than that.
I totally agree with Mike, just don't lower the standards to make it look like we take anyone. I don't care if your 3 foot tall or 7, 100 pounds or 300, black,white, green, pink it doesn't matter. The only thing that matters is that you can pass the test without help. I'm 6'2" and weigh 225, if I go down in a fire I want you to be able to help, not leave me......
well Lloyd did you know if they split the State of Alaska in half...Texas would be the third largest State.....? LOL
No-one said that a person that cannot pass a physical cannot be in the Department or on a fire ground....You just can't wear an airpack or do interior work. Our Department (Volunteer) pays for our annual physicals and PFT (Pulmonary function test) each year...so cost cannot be used as an excuse...Hypertension (High Blood pressure) can and sometimes does limit someone until they get it under control(meds)as diabetes...if it is well controlled then it is not an issue...but you can't have someone with a blood glucose of 300 inside as they may do the flop and now you have to get them out....All that I am saying is we need to use our heads once in awhile...we HAVE to stop killing ourselves....our "Family" is small enough...lets look out for one another...If my partner doesn't make it I feel as I am partly responsible...we know each other that well....My life depends on him as his depends on me......I have had enough of this one....I will leave the rest to you fine people.....Don't cheer yet though, I will stop by from time to time to see where it has gone...LOL Stay safe....Keep the Faith....Paul
After reading some of these replies I go back to the saying, "Work smart not hard". May be some of these bigs guys know the techniques better. We give a work performance test to every firefighter annually. The young guys who are in better shape than us older firefghters do no better than us. We have the knowledge to do all of the portions of the test and they have the young muscles. In the end if you don't pass, your pulled from the field and put on light duty or sick leave until you pass.
Allen,

From some statistics I cited in a related thread recently, for the most recent years that complete data is available, approximately 2% of the population will die from cardiovascular causes in any given year. Approximately 0.004% of firefighters will die from cardiovascular causes in any given year.

2% chance of the general population dying from a cardiovascular cause vs. 4/1,000 of a % for firefighters tell us that firefighter's odds of dying from a heart attack are far less than the general population's chances of dying from the same cause.

If we're going to cite statistics, let's compare them to something meaningful and measurable.

A lot of that 40% (or 50% some years) of firefighting-related heart attacks is related to either heat stress or cyanide inhalation/absorption, as several new studies show. We have very fit athletes in their early '20's dying of heart attacks while engaging in PT. We also have 65-year-old firefighters dying of heart attacks...but at a far lower rate than the 65-year-olds in the general population.

Fitness is a good thing, but using the fear of heart attack as motivation isn't effective. The firefighter heart attack stats have been very static for years - maybe decades. That tells us that maybe physical fitness isn't the effective heart-attack prevention that some belive it is.

The CPAT and Combat Challenge are very poor measurements of what's encountered in actual firefighting, too. They are designed for full-bore, anaerobic exercise for a very few minutes. Most fires are prolonged much longer than that. I'd prefer to have firefighters that know how to pace themselves and who have something left after the first five minutes of the fire.

Also, even the CPAT and Combat Challenge folks will openly tell you that their tests are not geared toward annual physical fitness tests for incumbent firefighters. That means that those tests might not measure the most important things toward either having physically fit firefighters or toward improving firefighter LODD heart attack rates.

We need to make sure we're not engaging in "Ready, FIRE...uhhh, ummm, Aim?"

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