Firefighting: The “Combat-Ready” Firefighter

By: Derek Kaucher, BS, Firefighter/CCEMTP

We probably don’t think that firefighting and combat are related, but there is a definite correlation when discussing preparation. Firefighters fight their own “battles”, most commonly related to fire responses. The way we prepare needs to be congruent with what we will face on the fire ground.

Fitness is an essential part of our training. Previously, we’ve talked about strategies and tactics, and how we need to enhance our training in those areas to be better prepared. Going a step further, we must be capable of performing those tactics in extreme conditions, both as individuals and as a team.

Being combat-ready in fire service terms relates to being prepared for any situation we will encounter. Physical fitness is becoming increasingly important for us, but more importantly is the type of physical fitness we are trying to achieve. Physical strength is what everyone thinks about when we say physical fitness, however we cannot neglect our cardiovascular fitness as well. As we age, our bodies begin to wear down and we must train them to handle the stresses of our rigorous job. Simply going in the gym and lifting weights is not enough.

Incorporating simulation and circuit training into our fitness program allows us to exert continuous stressors during our workouts, which is in tune with how we perform on the fire ground. Adding weight vests, or other resistance is also effective because the added weight of our own gear increases the demands on our bodies. For our fitness training to be appropriate, it HAS to mimic what we will encounter in our jobs.

Finally, eating appropriately and limiting our supplements plays a role in our overall physical fitness. Healthy eating doesn’t have to be expensive, it just takes some effort on the preparation. Incorporating healthy meals while at work is important as well as staying hydrated. We also need to be mindful of how we eat outside of work to maintain our overall health. With regards to supplements, be mindful of the way these things work on the body. For instance, some supplements inhibit the normal function of the kidney’s and our overall hydration capacities.

Maintaining health and fitness is not an option for the fire service. We must always be “combat-ready” so that we can fulfill the life safety initiative of “Everyone Goes Home”. Given the nature of our job, we have to lead a healthy and physically fit lifestyle or the consequences can be disastrous. Incorporate fitness programs into your daily routines and don’t be afraid to utilize outside help for guidance on implementing these programs. There are all sorts of resources available out there that just may save you or a brother’s/sister’s life. In order for us to take care of other people and the tragedies they face, we must first be able to take care of ourselves.

“Training promotes knowledge, knowledge dispels fear; train hard, fear not” -Unknown

Derek is a firefighter/CCEMTP with over 15 years in the fire and EMS world. He has been involved with volunteer agencies, municipal agencies as well as industrial departments. He currently teaches fire and EMS continuing education, works for a fire department as well as part-time for a county EMS service. He has multiple certifications in fire, EMS, hazmat, and technical response and is in the process of completing his Master’s degree in Organizational Leadership for Fire and Rescue Executive Leaders.