Albany Firefighters undertake ability testing (Video included)

Photo by J.D. Sumner

Photo by J.D. Sumner

ALBANY, Ga: For Firefighter Pam Fletcher, Tuesday's ability test was as much about mental stamina as it was physical prowess.

On the fourth and final station, Fletcher took on one of the biggest challenges of the day --- dead lifting a 185 mannequin wearing firefighter gear and lugging it 75 feet down range.

Halfway through, Fletcher set the dummy down, ready to quit. But with the chants of her fellow firefighters encouraging her to finish the drill, she gathered herself, grabbed the mannequin and pulled, tugged and dragged it the rest of the way.

"That's definitely the toughest part," Fletcher said. "I wanted to quit so bad, but there is something to be said about will power you know, with these guys cheering me on, I couldn't just quit."

Tuesday's test included tasks meant to replicate some of the more physically demanding parts of a firefighter's job.

Firefighters started the test by climbing three full flights of stairs lugging more than 50 pounds of hose up with them, before grabbing a rope and pulling another coil of hose up to the top of the Albany Fire Department's training facility.

They then climbed down from the tower and go to a ladder station where they fully deployed a ladder properly before heading to the next station to carry a one and three-quarter inch firehose fully charged with water 75 feet.

They then had to grab a sledge hammer and knock an 80-pound sled several feet down range before taking on the dreaded dummy.

The entire exercise has to be completed within nine minutes.

"We call it an ability test because it doesn't test just one facet of their job, it tests all of them," Training Captain Eugene Anderson said. "There are ways to do each of these exercises properly and do them smartly. It's more than just lugging a hose."

And it's not just the new or young firefighters running the course.

Battalion Chiefs Keith Ambrose and Matthew Jefferson each took on the course Tuesday. Each of the men have more than 20 years worth of firefighting experience under their belts.

"We may be a little higher up on the ladder than some of the younger people, but it doesn't mean we don't need to be able to do the same physical stuff," Ambrose said, after completing the course in under four minutes.

"A firefighter is a firefighter regardless of rank," Jefferson said. "At the end of the day, we may have to go into the same burning building as the younger folks so we need to be in just the same shape."

Every firefighter who ran the course Tuesday passed and will keep their certification, something that the AFD's training chief, Rubin Jordan, credits to their philosophy of staying prepared.

"This job is about staying prepared for just about anything," Jordan said. "We have to be ready to go any time, day or night, and if we can't do that, someone may lose their life."

Jordan said that a grant obtained this year to buy new exercise equipment for the firefighters has helped keep them in better physical conditioning and that a partnership with Phoebe Putney Health System to improve their nutritional health has helped improve their conditioning overall.