“How much does all that gear weigh?” is probably the most common question asked of me along with questions about the equipment that is part of the structural firefighter’s uniform called Personal Protection Equipment (PPE).
A “married axe and halligan” can weigh in about 18 to 20 lb. These kind of tools go with a fireman everywhere. Throw in your air pack, coat and pants (turnouts) helmet and personal tools stored in pockets and your looking at about 70lbs.
I remember carrying at least 100 lbs. in the form of a heavy forcible entry tool called a “rabbit tool” and a fire extinguisher (water can) up 5 flights of stairs to a working fire. When we arrived at the apartment door we had to force the door and then don our masks and go on air. Then we entered the apartment where the kitchen was on fire. This was at 3 am at the end of our shift after working a real ball busting day.
My workout program is clearly defined for an occupational athlete such as myself. I have to maintain good cardio to scale the 5 flights of stairs while carrying a lot of weight. This happens while wearing gear that does not breathe (so you overheat quickly). Once we are at the door of the apartment there is a switching of modes to having to use extreme force to get the door open. We then enter an enviroment that can kill and perform search and rescue while controlling breathing to conserve our air supply. If a victim is found the rescue may involve you and your partner carrying the fattest person in the building to safety(its never someone skinny). Sliding the person is sometimes not an option so you may have to squat and lift them up (deadlift).
When the fire is over and the work is complete you still have some time before your shift is over. You have to regroup and be prepared for the next emergency.
I train heavy and I mix it up with some high rep stuff. Because I have to keep cardio as a priority I tend to sacrifice some size. I’m a typical guy and I like to bulk up and be big. But when I tried this before (bulking)I noticed that the lack of cardio greatly reduced my ability to perform my job. Over the years I have concluded that my cardio keeps me about ten pounds lighter. That’s ok though because I can handle stairs and swinging an axe and still have enough strength to lift a 250 lb unconscious woman to a window sill and get her and then myself out of the building before I run out of air.
I notice that when I’m a little heavier and eating more I can lift more in the gym. I kinda get pissed cause I would like to go back to that and do more weight. But I have to make my profession the first priority.
- CPAT for firefighters (firefightermentor.wordpress.com)
- Beginning a lifelong journey (adventuresoffatman.wordpress.com)
- Trenton firefighters working to free passengers of SUV trapped underneath tractor-trailer in Lawrence (nj.com)