Norfolk Suspends Firefighter Fitness Test

The city Fire-rescue Department has issued a safety stand-down on a physical fitness test after a 52-year-old firefighter suffered a heart attack while trying to complete it in late April, reports The Virginian-Pilot.

The department is reviewing the test and won’t require firefighters to take it until at least the fall, Chief Jeffrey Wise said.

Letter to the Editor from Chief Wise: Regarding Firefighter Fitness Evaluations

It’s at least the second time since 2012 that a serious medical problem has been linked to the test, according to James Tarantino, the president of Local 68 of the International Association of Fire Fighters. On March 19, 2012, a 54-year-old firefighter suffered a fatal heart attack after climbing a ladder earlier in the day in preparation for the test.

The department began requiring the test in 2012. Previously, only recruits had to pass a fitness test.

Wise said he’s looking to improve the health of the department, and the test mimics the one given to recruits. It measures firefighting skills, and participants must navigate a maze and climb part of a 100-foot ladder while wearing about 40 pounds of gear.

It was developed by the department over time and is not based on tests from outside groups or associations, Wise said.

Recruits must climb up and down 40 feet of the ladder in one minute, 59 seconds, he said. Veteran firefighters have to climb up 60 feet in one minute, 19 seconds.

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