BLOOMFIELD, NJ — Members of the Bloomfield Fire Department recently completed a workshop to provide exercising techniques specifically designed for firefighters. Four sessions of eight hours each were held at Fire Station No. 1, Friday, March 8, to Monday, March 11. Because of scheduling, 55 of the 78 firefighters in the department participated.
The workshop was called Firefighter’s Function Fitness Class and was taught by professional firemen.
“It’s firefighting-specific,” said Fire Chief Lou Venezia at HQ on Monday. “It’s purpose is how to become functionally better at your job. Teaching these exercises helps to improve everyone’s job performance.”
Heart attacks and strokes account for 50 percent of all line-of-duty deaths for firefighters, he said.
At HQ, one of the fire trucks had been parked outside on Franklin Street freeing up some garage space for the exercises. Most of the participants seemed to be doing alright, stretching their bodies into the breaking point of oddly shaped forms. It could be easily imagined that someone being capable of such extreme positions would be a good thing to have on your side against a fire.
They were being instructed by Jim Moss, a captain in the Metro West Fire Protection District, near St. Louis. He and Dan Kerrigan, also on hand, wrote a book, “Firefighter’s Functional Fitness.” They travel the country teaching exercises they say firefighters should make a part of a fitness routine. According to Kerrigan, a fire marshal for the East Whitehead FD, Chester County, Pa., the book has been translated into about 40 of languages.
“There are dozens of exercises of practical activities based on being relevant to the job of firefighting,” he said. “In Bloomfield, the department is blessed for promoting fitness. It’s a very positive atmosphere here. Nationwide, generally speaking, most line-of-duty deaths are caused by poor health.”
A workshop, Kerrigan said, provides the groundwork for a comprehensive approach to fitness.
“It includes nutrition, rest and recovery and hydration,” he said, “in addition to physical fitness.”
Venezia has called firefighters “occupational athletes.”
“Firefighting is a very strenuous activity,” he said. “You want to be as strong and with as much endurance as possible. Nutrition is a big part of this program. So is hydration and having an annual physical.”
Both Venezia and Kerrigan said it was especially important to remain hydrated throughout the day because there is no telling when there will be a fire.
“Hydration affects all bodily functions, all organs,” Venezia said.
Firefighter Erick Stone, an eight-year BFD veteran, during a break said the workshop was great for on-job functionality.
“It pertains to everything we do on a fire scene,” he said.