In early April 2010, several members of a volunteer fire station sat in the dayroom discussing getting in shape. Cardiac-related incidents are among the leading causes of firefighter deaths in the United States. Over the past two decades, statistics show that 50 percent of firefighter fatalities are attributed to poor health conditions. A small group of volunteers began meeting at the fire station three times a week to workout with station-provided free weights. The number of members participating in the workouts increased rapidly, and the Branchville Volunteer Fire Company and Rescue Squadâ€™s leadership took note of their commitment. Michael Burrier, Volunteer Chief at the station located in North College Park, Maryland, mentioned this effort to a friend who is a personal trainer. Aaron Foster, a firefighter and National Registered Emergency Medical Technician with the District of Columbia, offered to come to the workout sessions and design a program specific to the needs of firefighters. Foster is a well qualified Fitness Trainer for recruit members of the Districtâ€™s Fire and Emergency Medical Services (EMS) Department.
In late April, Aaron Foster observed a workout session at the Branchville Station. Subsequently, he offered his expertise and demonstrated exercises beneficial to the memberâ€™s overall health and wellness. His primary focus was core strengthening movements specific to emergency operations tasks. Fosterâ€™s program provides an opportunity to combine fitness training with heavy exertion skills. What was initially intended to be a â€œcouple of visitsâ€ evolved into Aaron Foster regularly visiting the Branchville Volunteer Fire/EMS Station during their 3 per week fitness sessions. Workout participant and Branchville Volunteer Captain Lani Lindsey stated, â€œWe enjoy working with Aaron, and it seems he really enjoys working with us. He saw our commitment and the progress we were making. He kept coming back, and even now continues to guide and motivate us through our workouts.â€ Workouts are held every Monday, Wednesday and Friday at 5:00 pm.
The workout sessions, conducted at the fire station, last an average of 1 to 1 Â½ hours. Exercises include hose pulls and tire rolls, with a heavy concentration on cardiovascular training. Foster observes and supervises members through their workouts, all the while shouting out direction and motivation. He stated, â€œMy goal is to improve health and wellness with a focus on core strengthening. Since working with the members at Branchville Iâ€™ve seen improvement in both stamina and strength. Several members have experienced weight loss, which is an added benefit to their heath and wellness.â€
Volunteer Captain Lindsey is one of several members who regularly participate in the workouts. When asked to share her thoughts on the program, she said, â€œI really like the workouts and have gotten very excited about getting in shape. We work hard, but itâ€™s so worth the pain and sweat.â€ She concluded by talking about the additional benefits, â€œThe workouts are also a great team building experience that has brought us closer together as a company.â€
Through this firefighter physical fitness program, Aaron Foster and the Branchville Volunteer Fire Company and Rescue Squad are doing their part to help reduce preventable firefighter fatalities and ensure everyone returns home after every call.
Branchville Volunteer Chief Burrier, says, â€œI believe we are the countyâ€™s only volunteer station to provide an organized group physical training program of this intensity. I welcome others to become involved and participate.â€
â€œBeing physically fit firefighter/EMT is beneficial to the individual, fellow firefighters and every citizen and resident, for whom we strive to provide quality fire and emergency services,â€ says Prince Georgeâ€™s County Fire Chief Eugene A. Jones. â€œI am impressed by the initiative our volunteers have taken to participate in physical fitness programs and encourage others to become involved.â€