Date Available


Year of Publication


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)

Document Type

Doctoral Dissertation




Kinesiology and Health Promotion

First Advisor

Dr. Mark Abel


Firefighting is a strenuous occupation that requires high-intensity work, resulting in prolonged periods of stress and physical exertion. The physical demand of performing firefighting tasks is augmented by the weight of personal protective equipment (PPE) worn (i.e., load carriage: LC) and the use of a self-contained breathing apparatus (SCBA). These factors have been shown to increase metabolic demand at submaximal workloads and decrease maximal aerobic capacity in laboratory settings. However, there is limited research evaluating the effects of these factors on occupational performance. Therefore, the primary purpose of this study was to quantify the detrimental effect of LC only and LC+SCBA on firefighter occupational performance. In addition, it is important to identify fitness characteristics and physiological outcomes that are correlated to the decrement in performance produced by the PPE. This information will guide practitioners in selecting appropriate training strategies to effectively prepare firefighters to perform occupational tasks in gear. Thus, a secondary aim was to evaluate the relationships between fitness and pulmonary outcomes versus the decrement in occupational performance produced by the PPE. Twenty-one male firefighter recruits (Age: 28.6 ± 4.3 yr; Height: 178.6 ± 7.2 cm; Mass: 94.1 ± 15.4; Body Fat: 17.8 ± 8.4%) participated in this study. Occupational physical ability was assessed by time to complete a simulated fire ground test (SFGT). The SFGT was composed of the following tasks: stair climb, charged hose drag, equipment carry, ladder raise, forcible entry, search, and victim rescue. The recruits participated in six testing sessions. First, two SFGT familiarization trials were performed on separate days. During the next three testing sessions, the firefighter recruits performed the following SFGT conditions in a randomized order: control condition (PT clothes), LC only condition, and PPE+SCBA (SCBA) condition. Baseline and post-SFGT pulmonary and physiological data were collected. To describe within group differences between SFGT conditions, relative difference scores were calculated as follows: % difference = (([experimental trial outcome – PT trial outcome] / PT trial outcome) x 100). Statistical differences between the SFGT conditions were assessed with repeated measures ANOVA. To evaluate the relationship between fitness outcomes versus the decrement in SFGT performance, fitness testing data were obtained from the recruit academy and included: 1.5 mile run time, maximal push-ups, maximal sit-ups, maximal pull-ups, and prone plank time. In addition, the recruits completed a battery of fitness tests in their sixth testing session. The absolute difference in time to complete the SFGT between conditions was calculated as: experimental SFGT time - PT time. Bivariate correlations were used to assess the relationship between the absolute difference in SFGT time versus fitness outcomes. The LC+SCBA trial took 44.5 ± 15.5% longer (345.9 ± 43.7 s; p < .001) and the LC only trial took 38.3 ± 12.6% longer (331.2 ± 39.3 s; p < .001) to complete the SFGT than the PT trial (241.0 ± 33.3 s). The LC+SCBA trial took longer to complete the SFGT than the LC only trial (p = .046). Post-SFGT RPE was higher in the LC+SCBA trial (6.7 ± 1.7) and LC only trial (6.3 ± 1.5) compared to the PT trial (4.6 ± 1.8; p < .001). Absolute aerobic capacity, lower body power, anaerobic power and capacity, abdominal muscular endurance, and upper body strength were significantly correlated to the decrement in SFGT performance on some tasks caused by the PPE. In summary, PPE increases the intensity of performing fire ground tasks. To enhance occupational performance, it is imperative that firefighters optimize specific physical fitness attributes to reduce the relative stress produced by the PPE.

Digital Object Identifier (DOI)