LA CROSSE. Wis. (WKBT) - It seems reasonable that in order to be a firefighter you should be physically fit, however, a new survey by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention found that more than 70 percent of firefighters are obese or overweight.
Firefighters are not required to meet a national set of standards regarding their physical health or wellness. After they pass their initial physical fitness test to become a firefighter, they are never required to be tested again.
It is up to individual fire departments and the firefighters themselves to maintain a fitness plan, and take it from News 8's Brittany Schmidt: Here in La Crosse, that fitness plan is tough.
In a profession where timing is everything, every very moment counts.
"Remember you have to put this on in 60 seconds or less," said Aubrey Wesely, a firefighter with the La Crosse Fire Department.
"We are moving at a hustled pace, but we are still trying to get there and have the energy left," said Kyle DuMez, a firefighter with the La Crosse Fire Department.
As a firefighter, in order to do the job and do it well, you should to be physically fit.
"Here in La Crosse we strive very hard to stay in shape," said DuMez.
However, a new study by the CDC suggests about 70 percent of firefighters across the country are obese or overweight.
"We have more fit firefighters than that study predicted. We have to be," said Wesely.
News 8 wanted to make a comparison, so Schmidt spent a day in the life of a La Crosse firefighter and she admits it is not easy.
"We drill every day from 8 to 4, so we would have a high-rise drill; yesterday we were doing extrication," said DuMez. "After that from 4-8 we come back and work out."
Firefighters DuMez, Wesely, Richard Brunoni and Shift Cmdr. Jeff Murphy put Schmidt to the test.
Does Schmidt have what it takes to be a firefighter day in and day out?
"It's not just going to put a fire out and you're done," said Wesely.
Before Schmidt could even begin the first challenge, she had to get the gear on.
"Our main gear only weighs about 30-40 pounds," said Wesely.
"We wear this for every fire call we are dispatched to, also car accidents," said DuMez
Now that Schmidt has the gear on and extra tools in her hands, she is ready for the first challenge: the high-rise fire challenge.
"When you are talking high-rise fires, (we) consider high rise anything our ladders can't reach, so your talking four stories and up," said DuMez.
Schmidt had to quickly climb up five flights of stairs with all of the equipment. Step after step, Schmidt finally made it to the top and was ready for the next challenge, which was crawling with a hose.
After connecting the hoses and filling them with water, Schmidt and Brunoni were ready to go.
The final challenge was putting the gear on in under 60 seconds. To make it a little more competitive, Schmidt raised the stakes.
"If I win we get to switch jobs," said Schmidt.
Brunoni did it in 44 seconds, while Schmidt did it in a minute and three seconds. Needless to say, Brunoni won, which means they both get to keep their jobs -- something everyone at the fire station was hoping for, especially when timing is everything.
Although the La Crosse Fire Department has its own fitness schedule, two national organizations are trying to create a set of guidelines for fire departments to help promote healthy lifestyles among firefighters.
However , a majority of fire departments are volunteer, and the National Volunteer Fire Council fears if national fitness standards are put in place, they will lose those volunteers.
According to the U.S. Fire Administration, 71 percent of fire departments across the U.S. are made up of volunteers.
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