The making of a firefighter

The test involves seven measurements of fitness representing the demands of firefighting including a VO2max test, which measures aerobic fitness, a hose advance test, rope pull, simulated forceful entry, simulated victim rescue, a ladder climb and a vehicle extraction task.

AHS has previously done the VO2max test for potential firefighters but the rest was new to AHS. Once they made the decision to offer the testing, however, coordinator Liam Kelly had 103 voicemail messages on his phone in a 24 hour period.

"We had no idea the response would be that huge and it meant putting this together in a very short time frame. It wasn't easy," explained Kelly, "but we knew we had the resources and the expertise."

"First, we had to find a standardized protocol that represented the physical requirements of firefighting, find a facility that would work, we had to get the tools built, buy mannequins and hire graduate students. We also had to figure out how to adjust the testing based on a wood floor versus a concrete floor. There were a lot of small details that had to be worked out."

The protocol AHS decided to follow is the Canadian Forces Fire Marshal's (CFFM) Firefighter Pre-Entry Fitness Evaluation. Those who pass the tests, get a certificate stating they've met the CFFM requirements.

Patrick Sullivan was in the group going through the first round, which started on Oct. 8. He's wanted to be a firefighter since playing one in a kindergarten play and is finally able to follow that dream.

He found the testing to be very challenging, both physically and mentally.

"I had a good idea of what to expect because on Allied Health Services website, they lay out what the testing consists of," explained Sullivan. "But it was definitely harder than I expected because you don't realize how physically and mentally demanding it really is until you're in the middle of it and your body is telling you to stop but your mind is telling you to keep going."

AHS is a network of services focused on enhancing health, athletic performance, education, and research. It is the only accredited fitness testing facility in the province. In addition to firefighter fitness testing AHS provides Physical Abilities Requirement Evaluation (PARE) testing for police officers as well as ergonomic assessments, health promotion, injury management and sport performance services.