Graduate Thesis Or Dissertation

 

Assessment of pre-fire season physical fitness training among Bureau of Land Management wildland firefighters Public Deposited

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  • Wildland firefighters encounter many situations during forest fires that require them to rely on their knowledge, experience, and fitness level for survival While energy expenditure of wildland firefighters on the fire line has been well established, relatively little is known about the physical fitness level of wildland firefighters when they report to work The purpose of this descriptive study was to assess the level of pre-fire season physical fitness training in two categories ofl3ureau of Land Management (BLM) wildland firefighters. A questionnaire was developed using the Delphi method with input from career wildland firefighters and exercise physiologists familiar with the physical demands of wildland firefighting. The questionnaire solicited wildland firefighter demographic information, type and amount of pre-fire season exercise involvement, level of motivation to exercise, estimated current fitness level, and estimated/actual work capacity ("pack") test time. Test-retest reliability of the questionnaire was established using a separate group of Utah BLM wildland firefighters. Administration of the questionnaire took place during the 2003 fire season when the prospective wildland firefighters completed their work capacity ("pack") tests. Test-retest reliability was estimated using percentage of agreement calculations, while the nonparametric questionnaire data were analyzed using Chi-squared contingency coefficients and Cramer's V statistics. Repeated administration of the questionnaire to the separate group of 26 wildland firefighters over a 1-week interval indicated percent of agreement scores ranging from 38.5% to 100.0%. A total of 163 BLM wildland firefighters from Idaho and Utah (106 engine crew members, 57 hand crew members; mean age, 27.3 ± 7.9 yrs) completed the questionnaire. Significant differences between the engine crew and hand crew groups were found for frequency (35.1% of hand crew members performed >5 sessions per week v. 30.2% of engine crew members performed 1-2 sessions per week) and for duration (29.8% of hand crew members exercised > 60 minutes per session V. 21.7% of engine crew members exercised <30 minutes per session) of cardiovascular training (p < 0.05). While statistically significant, the differences observed between groups were not meaningful due to low Cramer's V coefficients of 0.27 and 0.25, respectively. For most categories of BLM wild land firefighters, the sole fitness criterion for employment is completion of a 4.83 k field-based hike in 45 minutes while wearing a 20.4 kg backpack, i.e., the work capacity ("pack") test. While all 163 respondents passed his/her pack test, our results suggest that a wide range of physical fitness levels existed among the wildland firefighters surveyed. Further research is needed to determine if differences exist in pre-fire season training regimens and physical fitness levels between federal government and private contract fire crews. Future studies should investigate how wildland firefighter fitness levels affect job performance, safety and injury incidence and severity rates.
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