The Madison Fire Department opened its newest round of recruitment in early October, accepting applications in the first step of a nearly year-long hiring process for aspiring firefighters. For those candidates who pass a written test and a psychological examination, the next challenge is a trial of their physical abilities.
"The Physical Ability Test consists of a series of events that simulate firefighting activities (e.g., dragging hoses, carrying equipment, searching for and rescuing victims)," reads a department description of this step in the hiring process. "It is never too early to start training to become a firefighter. Building strength and endurance is important in passing the exam and in keeping with the physical demands of the position if hired."
The MFD also provides a list of 15 physical demands required of its firefighters, which it notes are "characterized by strength, endurance, coordination, agility and dexterity." As one might expect, the specifics detail the various challenges that can be expected when it comes to rescuing persons in fires and battling their flames.
In order to prove that they're capable of handling the job, applicants are required to execute a sequence of timed physical tests. The requirements for each are detailed in an instructional video used by the department in its previous round of hiring, which concluded last summer. These specific tests may or may not be used in the new round of hiring that commences in January.
Seven separate tests, or "events" as they are described by the department, are covered in the video. The first is the "Stepmill," with a goal to "walk at a pre-determined rate of 69 steps per minute," until the potential trainee is directed to stop by the examiner. The second is the "Ladder," a timed event in which the trainee is required to carry a 20-foot ladder across a room and set it down in a specific location, then raise-and-lower a wall-mounted 35-foot ladder, and then return the stand-alone ladder to the wall. Event three is the "Hose Drag," in which the applicant is required to pull a fire hose through a course as fast as possible. The fourth event is the "Sledgehammer," in which the applicant is to strike 12 blows of sufficient pressure on a gauge as fast as possible. Event five is "Search," which finds the applicant tasked with a timed navigation of an enclosed maze in complete darkness. Event six, or "Rescue," times the applicant in dragging a mannequin through a maze. The seventh and final event is "Pike Pole," which requires the applicant to utilize poles to alternately push open a trap-door and pull down a vertical weight. Every test has multiple requirements regarding its appropriate execution, along with strict delineations between disqualification and successful completion.
The nine-minute training video follows.
Applicants who successfully navigate the physical abilities tests and move on in the process subsequently face an oral board examination and interview by the MFD Chief follows. A list of proposed hires is then sent to the Madison Police and Fire Commission for preliminary approval pending a pre-employment medical examination. A 20 week Recruit Training Academy follows for those who are hired. All applications for persons interested in becoming a Madison firefighter in the new round of hiring are due on Friday, December 5.