Keeping fit to fight fires

For at least one hour a day every firefighter is required to work out to be in the best shape as possible to do their job.

“Our job requires a lot of good physical conditioning, you go from zero to 100,” said Scott Doe, B Crew captain with the Marshalltown Fire Department. “So you’re sitting here and the alarm goes off and your heart starts beating so as soon you get on scene you’re going hard and you got to be ready to go when that happens.”

Every day members of the B Crew work out at 2 p.m. after lunch in their “gym” located in the apparatus bay of the fire department building.

“We have to do half an hour of cardio and then we have free weights and other stuff we can do in our time,” said Dan Oswald, a Marshalltown firefighter.

Oswald said he needs to stay fit for his job.

“We have to breathe out of a tank so we only have a certain amount of air,” Oswald said. “So the better shape you’re in the longer you can make that tank last.”

In addition to making the tanks last, Doe said firefighters need muscles that are strong and conditioned.

“You might be breaking into a house and would have to use a sledgehammer and open the front door if it’s locked,” Doe said. “Or you might set up ladders as soon as you get there if somebody is on the second story. You just have to be ready to go and strong enough to do those things.”

Scott Johnson, acting fire chief, agrees.

“Because of the physicalness of our job it’s just important we stay in the best shape we can,” Johnson said. “The fires, the medical work, even picking up people and putting them on carts and carrying carts, it’s a physical job all the way around.”

Doe said everyone enjoys it.

“You don’t have anybody complain about it,” Doe said. “They like how we incorporated it into our daily routine. Everyone is glad about it. If they wanted to increase it more I don’t think many guys would be upset.”

Oswald said they have a lot of equipment including three treadmills, two elliptical, a stairmill, two bikes and weights.

“I don’t know of many fire departments around here that exercise as regularly as we do,” Oswald said. “I think that shows.”

The Marshalltown Fire Department won the American Lung Association’s Fight for Air Climb competition four years in a row. This competition is held every year in Des Moines and consists of stair climbing drills.