By Sonya Heitshusen and Erin Kiernan
Urbandale (IA) – It’s dangerous, dirty, demanding work. It requires stamina, strength and speed.
“Yeah, firefightin’s not for everybody,” says Chief Jerry Holt, the Chief of the Urbandale (IA) Fire Department.
But for those who want a career that’s all about helping others, combined with a serious adrenaline rush, the risks are worth it.
“When they have to perform they are occupational athletes,” says Holt. They go from zero to sixty just like that and they have to be able to perform at a very high level.”
It’s why Holt wants the best of the best on his department. In Urbandale, you can’t even be a candidate unless you pass this physical ability test.
Firefighter Drew Stiles shows us the course for the test. It starts with the easiest task, turning on the hydrant.
“It’s not really that tough, but when you put on gear and add all that weight, it adds to it,” says Holt.
The gear weighs roughly 50 pounds but it feels a lot heavier by the second station, which entails pulling a water-filled hose. It’s followed by a station that is meant to mimic cutting through a door or roof. It’s exhausting and makes the fourth station – carrying a 50-pound tool pack – feel like a break. It’s a needed break, because station five is the hardest. Candidates must carry a 165-pound dummy 50-feet.
“It’s a 165-pounds and it feels like 500-pounds when you’re doing it,” says Holt.
Candidates must complete all of the stations in four minutes. Stiles beats the clock, finishing in 3:47.
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