Fitness Testing: The Candidate Physical Abilities Test for Firefighters


The firefighter career is highly competitive. The hiring process is extremely stringent; only the few who are physically adept, healthy, and of sound character make it through the process. Individuals must meet the department’s eligibility requirements and after that, they must complete a written test, an agility test, an interview with a board of firefighters, a second interview with the chief of department, a background check, and finally a full physical exam.


Being a firefighter is definitely no easy feat and candidates must be well-rounded in all aspects. Since approximately 70% of fire department calls are medical-related rather than fires, medical emergency training is now a mandatory prerequisite for all fire departments. Firefighters are also tasked with physical challenges constantly. To emulate an actual fire emergency situation, applicants must be able to carry a weight of 120 pounds, which is comparable to an average person’s weight, unaided, or 300 pounds with help of another firefighter WHILE wearing up to 50 pounds of gear.

The physical fitness test embodies elements of strength, endurance, and agility - all features that are required in the everyday duties of a firefighter. The test consists of eight steps that simulate actual events that can happen while on service. The entire assessment must be completed in 10 minutes and 20 seconds or else the candidate fails:

  • Stair Climb: This step is completed with an additional 12.5-pounds on each shoulder, mimicking the hose packs that firefighters carry up buildings during a fire emergency.

  • Hose Drag: This simulates the task of dragging an uncharged hose line from the firetruck to the area with fire, while remaining stationary and avoiding possible hurdles.

  • Equipment Carry: The participant is expected to carry two saws —one at a time— to a designated place on the ground, and return them to specified areas. The purpose of this event is to see if the participant can effectively remove pieces of equipment from the fire truck, carry them to the emergency scene, and bring them back to the starting point.

  • Ladder Raise and Extension: This tests the participant’s ability to operate a ladder— that is, extending it from the ground up to the roof or window. The participant is also expected to walk up to the top of the ladder, lift the ladder from the unhinged end from the ground, and walk it up until it is stationary against the wall.

  • Forcible Entry: This step requires the candidate to use a 10-pound sledgehammer to strike a measuring device until the alarm sounds— all while keeping both feet outside a marked box at all times. This event measures the ability of the individual to force open a locked door or break down a wall.

  • Search: The candidate must crawl through a narrow tunnel maze with obstacles simulating the scenario of searching for victims in unfamiliar places with limited visibility.

  • Rescue: The tester must drag a 165-pound mannequin on the shoulder for 35 feet, while making a 180-degree turn, and dragging it back to the original position.

  • Ceiling Breach and Pull:  The participant must remove a six-foot pike pole from the bracket and place the end of the pole on a hinged door in the ceiling while staying within an established boundary. He/she must push the hinged door up with the pike pole three times. Afterward, the candidate must hook the pike pole to an 80-pound ceiling apparatus and pull it five times. This routine of three pushes and five pulls is completed four times.


By now, we can all agree that such physical tests are rigorous. Even if your occupation does necessarily require you to be ‘fit’ 24/7, it might be beneficial to put yourself to the “firefighter test” every now and then —or at least try some of its “events”— to enhance strength and endurance. Keep us posted on how you do!