Article Title



J. Taylor, J. Morgan, D. Dutto, K. Pfaffenbach

Eastern Oregon University, La Grande, OR.

Wildland Rappel Firefighters are a unique task force responsible for forest fire ‘initial attack’. Briefly, at the outset of a wildfire, rappellers are dispatched via helicopter to the site of the burn. They descend from ropes out of the helicopter into the area of the blaze and set about to control the burn. Initial fire control requires arduous physical labor and can last 8 to 24 hours. Firefighters are then tasked with maintenance that last between 24-72 hours. From there, rappellers are responsible to for extraditing themselves from the backcountry via a ‘pack out’. Pack outs require hiking on undulating terrain, often without trail, with a 50kg pack across distances ranging from 8-16km. Despite the unique physical demands of this group of firefighters, little is known regarding the range of strength and fitness across the heterogenous population of firefighters. PURPOSE: The purpose of the current study is to better understand the baseline strength and cardiorespiratory capacity of a group of rappel firefighters. By understanding the unique strength and metabolic characteristics of each firefighters will allow for the development of individualized training programs. METHODS: Firefighters from the Grande Ronde Rapellers crew participated (n=14, age=33.5±4.27 years). Strength assessments included deadlift, 4.5kg medball throw, and a step test with 34kg pack at 120bpm/foot strike. Cardiorespiratory and exercise efficiency were assessed using open air spirometry gas analysis at various exercise intensities. Treadmill speed was set at 5.63kmh and subjects completed 5 minutes at 0.5% incline, 10% incline, 0.5% incline with 34kg pack, and 10% grade with pack. VO2 max was assessed with graded exercise test RESULTS: Mean and range for calculated deadlift max was 122.94±31.85kg and 81.82 - 193.18kg. Med Ball throw mean and range was 775.1±285.80Watts and 440-1149watts. Mean VO2 max was 44.16±6.02ml/kg/min. We observed substantial variation in exercise requirements in the inclined conditions. For example, average HR during inclined walking ranged 129.7-179.7bpm. Similarly, average HR varied during weighted incline walking from 156.3bpm to 199.7bpm. CONCLUSION: Despite having the same work demands, there is substantial variability between rappel firefighters in the strength and cardiorespiratory capacity.

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