tHE TEST WOULD BE EXTREMELY DIFFICULT for the average sedentary American, but for firefighters it’s not
much of a challenge.
“I would say that the test is the bare minimum,” Nelson says. “The test does involve a variety of tasks that you
might encounter on a fire ground, but I think it barely scratches the surface. I would always encourage young fire-fighters
especially to seek to be able to perform far beyond what is required on that test.”
That’s why there are workout sessions just about every day in fire stations throughout New Hanover County,
with groups of firefighters sweating together through grueling exercises.
“A big part of it is the team aspect,” says master firefighter John Feeley, a nine-year veteran of the Wilmington
Fire Department after serving three years at Wrightsville Beach. “You could be the strongest person in the
world, but you can’t do this job by yourself. We always say you are as strong as your weakest link. We want
Sometimes there are fun and challenging workouts, like pickleball or dodgeball in full turnout gear. But for the most part, the
firefighters use equipment that can be found in most gyms. Weights. Barbells. Dumbbells. Medicine balls. Kettle bells.
The key is how they are used. Nelson, a Wilmington firefighter for three years as well as a Wrightsville Beach lifeguard, used
to own a CrossFit gym. He leads the workouts at Station 8 off Eastwood Road, tailoring them to the demands of the job.
“You never know what the task might be,” Nelson says. “It might be something short and intense for just a couple of minutes.
Or it might be on the scene for a few hours. We need to be very well-rounded in our fitness. We need to be strong, we need to
be powerful, but we also need to be flexible because we might have to move in weird positions. We need to have endurance to
go for an hour or maybe more. Our workouts typically reflect that. We usually start with some strength or power-type move-ments
and finish with cardio, something that’s going to get your heart rate up.”
They work out for an hour and a half a day while on shift, and are expected to exercise on their own when they are off. An
hour a day is mandated by department policy.
“Whenever we are called to do something, it’s because somebody is having their worst day,” says Calvin Rowell, a six-year
veteran of the Wilmington Fire Department. “We need to perform at the best we can. It’s not OK to be complacent.
Complacent gets people hurt in our job. It’s important for us to always be at our best, or we’re doing a disservice to the
WBM february 2020