Physical conditioning is a vital part of both wildland firefighting and the Arrowhead IHC program. A high level of physical fitness is an absolute necessity in order to maintain both crew safety and efficiency. The Arrowhead IHC Physical Training Program is constructed around maintaining a high level of fitness through aerobic, strength, endurance, and stretching exercises.
Every crew member will be required to participate in a daily 1.5 hours structured physical training program. The physical training facilities include an obstacle course, free weights, and miles of trails on which to run. Our work center is at a elevation of 6240 with very little flat ground.
Each member of the Arrowhead IHC should arrive on the first day of work in top physical condition. A physical evaluation will be conducted on the first day of work which consists of the pack test, sit-ups, push-ups, pull-ups, and a run. As a condition of continued hire, every member of the Arrowhead IHC will be required to hike 3 miles with a 45-pound pack in under 45 minutes. The first day of work is the easiest day of physical training and the real work begins thereafter.
Physical Fitness Program
The goal of the Arrowhead Interagency Hotshot Crew Physical Fitness Training Program is to sustain a high degree of physical fitness required for wildland fire work. Crew members are required to work hard over extended time periods; the program is designed to develop both strength and endurance. Using a combination of exercises, the outcome is physically fit firefighters who are agile, productive, and less likely to suffer injuries or accidents due to fatigue. The key to the program is that crew members arrive for duty in top physical shape.
Before a crew member is made available for fire assignment, he or she must pass the Interagency Pack Test. Each crew member is also required to run a 2.5 mile fitness course and perform a minimum of 40 sit-ups in 60 seconds, 25 push-ups in 60 seconds, and 4 pull-ups. Testing is done during the first week and at subsequent intervals during the fire season. When not on fire assignment, the crew will begin physical training each day at 0700. The daily P.T. session lasts 1.5 hours. A typical five day span would include three alternating days of directed weight lifting and fast-pace running, with two interspersed days of long, slow distance running, and pull-ups, sit-ups and push-ups. The weight lifting includes repetitions of bench press, lat pull-downs, curls, leg extensions, squats and jump rope. The fast-pace runs include 3-5 mile runs, sprints, and quarter-mile agility laps. Long, slow distance runs last from 45 to 90 minutes, with lots of hill work, trails and road running. Time is allotted for warm up and stretching prior to each P.T. session.
The elevation at Swale Work Center, the duty station for the Arrowhead Hotshot Crew, is 6240 feet. The terrain around the station is steep, and a run that involves a vertical climb of 600 feet is a common workout. Another run involves a 1000 foot vertical climb in 3.8 miles. If you arrive for work out of shape, you run the risk of serious injury. The crew workouts could be detrimental to your physical well-being if you attempt the physical training in poor physical condition. Don’t fool yourself– BE IN SHAPE WHEN YOU ARRIVE FOR DUTY! Some have arrived thinking they were in shape or that they could handle it, and ended up, at best, trying to get in shape and catch up with the rest of the crew, or, at worst, sitting out the first few weeks of fire season nursing injuries. This point can not be stressed enough. Remember a crew is limited by its weakest member, don’t be the one to hold the crew back.
The Interagency Hot Shot Crew Operations Guide mandates that all members of IHCs be required to participate in an annual training program before their first assignment each fire season. This training regimen includes both classroom and field exercises. Also identified in the IHC Operations Guide are those exercises deemed “critical” that must be presented in a minimum of 24 hours each season, as well as those courses that may be presented at the discretion of the IHC Superintendent.
In addition to annual fire training, the supervisors and crew of the Arrowhead IHC present additional training courses in the S-200 level and above to crew members in order to further the career development of each individual. Courses are presented weekly at the discretion of the Arrowhead IHC Superintendent and as time permits.