Below is a diagram of how one would perform the fireman carry. This tends to be the most popular and well-known way to carry a unconscious victim but it is really the least likely used on the fire ground. Ironically the fireman carry is more likely used such as in the military. The main reason why it’s not widely used in the fire service is because thick black smoke and super heated gases tend to force firefighters down to the floor where they have to feel their way along and avoid tripping or falling . When a victim is found they are carried out in a low position by two or more firefighters. Firefighters should always operate on the fire ground in a minimum of two members.
Sometimes things go wrong or get really hairy. A firefighter may get separated from his/her partner and then encounter a victim. If the conditions are bad enough the firefighter may have no other choice but to drag the victim out to safety. But if the conditions are good enough to stand then the firefighter will use this type of carry. If the victim is a child or a smaller person than the firefighter the carry may be performed without a hitch. But what if the victim is a rather large person? Don’t forget , the firefighter is also wearing at least an additional 60 lbs in the form of his personal protective equipment. If the victim is 250 lb and unconscious then the firefighter is really contending with 310 lb. of weight. Also the victim may have been found after the firefighter first had to throw a ladder to the second floor window, go up the ladder and break the window and remove the frame, then go on air and enter the fire building and conduct a systematic search. By the time the victim is found the firefighter may already be feeling exhausted and running low on precious air. Now he/she has to pick this victim up and carry them out to safety.
Take a look at this diagram and lets see what movements are involved.
From A to B the movement is a very awkward and messy dead lift/squat. Because the firefighters air tank may get in the way they may have to loosen the shoulder straps and waist strap to allow the tank to drop a little (the victim will wind up right where the top of the air cylinder is located). If the firefighter does not use proper lifting form there could be a significant occurrence of injury to the back or knees. Unfortunately this isn’t taking place in a gym while wearing a pair of shorts and a t shirt and the weight being lifted is a unconscious person which is totally different from lifting an olympic bar. So do you think the firefighter will use perfect form? Most likely not.
That is why I continue to stress the need for a consistent exercise program if you want to make it through your career as a firefighter. And I don’t want to hear it that training dead lifts and squats in the gym is bad for your back or knees! Learn the exercises and practice good form and use a weight that is appropriate. If you put dead lifts and squats into your training you will be able to handle the type of lifting that I described above. So you say ” But I do leg presses and I’m putting up 350 lbs. regularly so I am plenty strong and fit to perform this carry.” Wrong! The leg press sucks for training you to do a compound movement and if you think that you can squat 350 because you can leg press 350 you are wrong again. Dead lifts and squats are the only way to go. Now lets move on.
From movement B to C you are basically bear hugging the shit outta the person and just trying to get their arm in place. Maybe some sand bag training can get you in tip-top for this portion of the move. It’s important to realized that the person is totally limp and heavy as hell at this point. As you are trying to hold them up and retrieve their arm they will immediately start to slide back down as gravity does what it does best. The clothing the victim is wearing is most likely going to allow this to happen faster as the victim slides out of their own shirt. So move B to C must be performed quickly or you risk losing all the ground you gained from your first lift.
From C to D you are basically just getting under the victim but don’t forget you have on a heavy helmet that can cause you to lean forward a little more than you want and you want to make sure your face piece doesn’t get knocked off either.
And finally movement D to E is more or less a good morning. The good morning is another exercise that people claim is bad for your back. Yeah it is bad for your back if you use too much weight! Learn how to do the exercise properly and use the right weight. If you are still squeamish about doing Good Mornings then do Hypers or Reverse Hypers and allow your dead lifts to develop your lower back strength. But remember there is nothing like training specifically for the task at hand because if you don’t train like you’re on the fire ground then how will you do the fireman carry with a 250 lb. person on your back?
GOOD MORNING EXERCISE
Great for your back but will make your eyes disappear.
- How much weight does a firefighter carry? (lifehardcore.com)
- A true American super hero: Fireman Rob Verhelst (trifatherhood.com)
- CFD fireman injured fighting 3-alarm blaze (wcnc.com)