As part of the fireline performance required of the Interagency Hotshot Crews (IHCs), the physical ability to perform arduous labor is critical to crew moral, personal health, and safety standards. Crewmembers must be physically fit and have the agility to perform in a safe and efficient manner on any Hotshot crew. After a crewmember has passed the Work Capacity Test (consisting of “arduous” level performance testing (the “Pack Test”), which includes carrying a 45 pound pack for 3 miles in 45 minutes), usually given on the first day of work, the crew begins a rigorous Physical Training (PT) program. These PT programs may consist of:
In conjunction with the PT program, it is currently recommended that crewmembers meet the following minimum goals found in “Fit to Work” from the Missoula Technology Development Center:
Though these are currently recommended goals set forth by the U.S. Forest Service, Bureau of Land Management, and National Park Service, the U.S. Hotshots Association will continue to advocate for these to be defined as the minimum standards for Interagency Hotshot Crews. In other words, you should be testing yourself against these standards. In addition, the Bureau of Land Management has created a Fitness Challenge that can answer your question of, “What do I need to do to get ready?” and “What are the standards I can measure myself against to see if I’m in Hotshot shape?” Using this fitness challenge, prospective Hotshots can test themselves at home and see where they are compared to the people on board now. It has everything you need on the site, including links to score yourself and tips on how to get yourself ready: http://www.blm.gov/nifc/st/en/prog/fire/fireops/fitness_challenge.html
Simply put, physical training cannot be stressed enough. A rigorous off-season fitness program is highly recommended. At a minimum, in preparation for the fire season you should be completing a physical training program that consists of:
Every crewmember is required to come into the season in top physical condition and only physical conditioning, proper nutrition, and adequate rest can help you make it through a busy fire season. Every year firefighters around the country fail because they assumed their natural abilities were adequate, or their preparation was sufficient and they underestimated the Hotshot physical fitness requirements. Once again Physical Fitness cannot be stressed enough. Nobody comes into the fire season in “too good of shape.”
Best of luck in your preparation for the fire season. As the U.S. Army says, “Train like you Fight, Fight like you Train.” Go out and get in shape.