The physical fitness of a firefighter can be the determining factor between life and death. This is something Richmond Fire Chief Gerald Tatum is completely aware of, which is what led to his participation in a six-month study being administered by a University of Kentucky student.

The study is titled “Effects of a Strength Training Program for the Health, Fitness and Performance of Firefighters” and is being orchestrated by Mark Able of UK’s Department of Kinesiology and Health Promotions.

“This is a pilot program, that, if successful, may be used by interested fire departments in the region,” Able said.

Firefighters will be given a CPAT (Candidate Physical Ability Test) at the three-month mark and six-month mark to rate the progress of his or her physical abilities.

The Richmond Fire Department was chosen by the state fire commission and the University of Kentucky to be the subject of a six-month study involving physical agility testing. The Kentucky Commission on Fire Protection also wants Richmond to be one of two locations in the state to host this kind of training for fire departments in surrounding areas.

“The program will be really good for our department and really good for our community,” Tatum said.

The CPAT is designed to provide fire departments with a reliable and diverse pool of candidates who can handle the physical demands of the firefighting profession.

Within 10 minutes and 20 seconds, candidates and/or firefighters must successfully complete eight tasks that include: stair climbing, hose drag, equipment carry, ladder raise and extension, forcible entry, search, rescue and ceiling breach.

All eight events are performed wearing a 50-pound vest simulating the weight of firefighter gear.

The test is graded on a pass-fail basis.

The study is now a part of every Richmond firefighter’s work shift.

“Richmond firefighters train in this program seven days a week,” Tatum said. “The crews rotate through eight different stations during the hour-long program each day.”

Ronica Shannon can be reached at or 623-1669, Ext. 234.

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