Wilmington firefighters work out at Station 8 in December 2019.
Above: Keith Nelson (left) and Calvin Rowell pass a medicine ball
and swing kettlebells. Opposite: John Feeley does pullups. Josh Baltz
holds Nelson’s feet for inverted rows. Nelson performs a fireman’s
carry with Rowell.
At Wrightsville Beach, just about every
afternoon a group of firefighters, interns
and lifeguards work out in the “meat locker,”
the space in the apparatus bay where the
weights are stored.
“We typically work out about the same
time, roughly 3:30 or 4 each day,” Proffitt
says. “We have a combination of interns
who live here and people on shift, and also
some of the lifeguards will come in and
work out. It’s kind of its own social hour in
the meat locker. We have people who have
almost a body-builder mentality to those
who are more doing some functional move-ments.
Some people are more involved in
Olympic lifts. It’s a combination, and we’re
trying to incorporate all of it. We typically
dedicate an hour a shift to working out. By
far we bypass any minimum requirement.”
Calls involving fires require full turnout
gear designed to protect the firefighter from
heat and flames. Consequently, it is heavy.
Add in full breathing gear and tools, and the
total weight of the equipment is north of
Full turnout gear adds a layer of difficulty
to even the most routine task.
“A lot of buildings here are more than one
story. Just going up and down stairs wearing
that gear can wear you out,” Wilmington
firefighter Josh Baltz says. “You might have
to remove a patient from a structure. They
are dead weight. You have to be strong
enough to remove them. Our tools are
heavy. You might have to hold them for
an extended period of time when you are
on scene. We have to throw ladders on our
shoulders and throw them up to a window.
It all happens fast. It’ll take a toll on you.”
Wearing full gear is the equivalent of car-rying
five high performance racing bicycles,
or 2.5 cinder blocks.
“Our gear makes a total difference,” says
Rowell. “It’s easy to perform a simple task.
I have a ladder right here, climb the ladder.
Simple task, right? Throw on 70 pounds of
gear and then have somebody walk up the
same ladder. It’s going to be considerably
harder. We have to get comfortable operat-ing
in that gear and comfortable with the
weight, or at a fire we won’t be any good.”