Physical fitness

A body that's in good physical shape...
has a far better chance of enduring the rigors of fire fighting.

Fire fighters at duskWhether you're in British Columbia, Alberta or Quebec, interface fires require long hours of arduous work in the worst of conditions-so personal safety begins with physical fitness.

A body that's in good physical shape and aerobically conditioned has a far better chance of enduring the rigors of fire fighting.

Tools and protective equipment are fundamentally different for structure and wildland fire fighting. It's important to know those differences and understand the limitations of each.

Protective clothing for wildland firefighters is shown on a following page. Flame-resistant trousers and shirts don't absorb moisture; they permit air to pass through the fabric and allow free movement during long hours of work at high temperatures.

Wildland Fire Woman in full gearThe hardhat is specially designed to be lightweight, impact-resistant and well ventilated to protect against heat stress.

The safety goggles are also ventilated to minimize fogging and have impact-resistant lenses.

Fire fighters often wear a cotton bandana for respiratory protection.

The leather gloves are not only treated for thermal and flame resistance, they are designed with minimal seams to prevent blisters when using tools.

On the feet, high-top leather work boots worn with wool socks are usually adequate, and they're lightweight enough to prevent fatigue over long periods of time.

fire fighter field packNewly redesigned fire fighter field packs distribute weight along the hips, where it interferes least with movement And these packs can be easily removed in emergencies.

During cool weather, wildland fire fighters may also wear a wool jacket. Wool has excellent natural fire-resistant properties as well as good air flow for comfort.

However, this clothing has its limitations at a structure fire. For example, it doesn't provide the thermal or steam protection needed to enter a burning building.

Also, because wildland fire fighters don't carry self-contained breathing apparatus (SCBA), they are vulnerable to smoke inhalation, which is more common at a structure fire scene where the fire is confined.

This is not to say that smoke inhalation isn't a threat outdoors in a wildland fire-it is. Carbon monoxide poisoning is a real danger. A colorless, odorless by-product of fire, carbon monoxide combines with smoke in any fire.

Prolonged burning, aggravated by thermal inversions which trap smoke and gases close to the ground, increases carbon monoxide levels and the risk of exposure. Learn how to recognize the symptoms of exposure to carbon monoxide and other dangerous fumes, no matter where you're working.

The structural fire fighter's protective coat is well-designed for short-term steam and thermal protection. However, in the wildlands, where mobility and long-term endurance are required, heavy protective clothing and big rubber boots soon become too bulky and hot for the job, leaving the fire fighter dangerously exhausted. And most structure fire departments don't carry the fire shelters that have saved the lives of many wildland fire fighters suddenly trapped by flames.

Remember, as structure and wildland fire fighters are increasingly called on to assist one another in wildland/urban interface fires, your safety and survival may depend on knowing not only your capabilities, but your limitations.

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