Before mastering the many other skills needed in a wildland firefighter’s career, applicants must get one skill down: organization. It takes time and planning to put together a workout regimen that will prepare you for your job as a wildland firefighter. For many, it is difficult to know where to start. However, there are tips for creating a wildland firefighter training program that you should incorporate into your own preparation. Read on to learn how you can set yourself up for success as a wildland firefighter.
Levels of Physical Requirements
The United States Forest Service breaks down the physical requirements for wildland firefighters into three levels. Your physical tests will vary between these levels depending on the job you want. Each level must complete its own “pack test,” meaning the wildland firefighter hopefuls must undergo a test to judge their ability to carry a heavy pack for a distance. To give you an idea of difficulty levels between the applicants, below is a description of their pack tests:
- Arduous: People in this category must perform above-average in conditioning tasks and endurance. Strike team leaders, line scouts, and firefighters must all complete tests, which include a three-mile hike with a 45-pound pack in 45 minutes.
- Moderate: Safety officers and fire behavior analysts must complete the moderate tests. People engaged in this testing must finish a two-mile hike with a 35-pound pack in 30 minutes.
- Light: Applicants hoping to perform office-based duties still must undergo a pack test, only this one reflects their minimal activity in the field. They must finish a one-mile hike in 16 minutes.
It is important to know that jogging or running is not allowed during the pack test. There may also be other fitness requirements for specialty jobs. For example, smokejumpers must finish seven pull-ups, 25 push-ups, 45 sit-ups, and a 1.5 mile run in under 11 minutes. Regardless of which path you choose, physical fitness is a must.
Wildland firefighter hopefuls might feel overwhelmed by the prospect of testing into their position. Many of them may be looking for tips for creating a wildland firefighter training program. Thankfully, there is a workout regimen called the FireFit program that was specifically devised to train firefighters. This comprehensive program helps wildland firefighters reach their health requirements and teaches them about safety.
Different parts of the program reflect pre-season, fire-season, and post-season training. As someone just starting out, you will put your energy into the pre-season module. The program will last eight weeks. If this is your first season as a wildland firefighter, you might want to get in shape sooner. The beginning six weeks will “ramp up” the candidate, and the last two weeks are a transitional period into the fire season.
There are a few important conventions you should take care of before you start training. First of all, it is recommended that all firefighting hopefuls go through a health screen test with their physician. During this examination, a doctor will look for signs of muscle stressors that could become injuries during training.
It is also vital to set goals for yourself. You should also decide where you will train. Create a schedule. If you think you could benefit from some side-by-side training, you can reach out to other wildland firefighters who may want to train with you.
Also, make sure you have the right equipment. Training on poor shoes, for instance, could really slow down your progress and potentially harm your spine. If you can, try to get ahold of some firefighter pants. Training with the right gear makes you more prepared when it is time to test your abilities for real.
During the FireFit program, you will engage in cardiovascular activity four to six times per week. You should exercise in 30-to-60-minute increments, and the intensity level you want is 70 to 85 percent of your heart rate. During the first four weeks of the program, you should engage in four days of cardiovascular activity at an average of 40 minutes per day. During the last two, you should increase the workouts to five to six sessions per week.
Wildland firefighter hopefuls will begin their flexibility training with a low-level activity like jogging. You should finish each workout with static stretches.
For the first two weeks of FireFit, you should only work on muscle strength twice a week. Later, you can increase that to three times per week. Each workout should involve lifting 70 to 90 percent of your strength. Do eight to 12 repetitions with one to three sets.
As you begin the last two weeks of training, you should change your strength workouts so they focus on endurance. You can increase your reps to 12 to 20 for one to three sets.
Your body will need time to recuperate during this stressful, physically-demanding time. You should give yourself one to two days of rest per week during the module. During those days, engage only in light activity or no activity at all.
Reduced Chance of Injury
The training program outlined in this article will not only prepare you to become a wildland firefighter, but it will also reduce your chance of injury. Many would-be wildland firefighters lose their chances at the job because they injure themselves during a poorly planned workout program. With these tried-and-true methods, you can be confident that your preparation will keep you fit, safe, and ready to start this exciting new chapter of your career.
People who want to become wildland firefighters must prepare themselves for the physical and emotional toll that the position demands. They must be prepared for long walks through the woods. They must be ready to handle rough, uneven terrain and heavy weights. Of course, they must also be ready to handle the physical stress a nearby fire can put on a human body.
Thankfully, people who want to take on these awesome responsibilities have a guide to help them prepare. The FireFit program gives wildland firefighter hopefuls a step-by-step action map to bring them to physical excellence. Follow these instructions carefully and you should be ready for the exciting future ahead.