Cardiac arrest, like that which a volunteer firefighter suffered while battling a brush fire and later died, is a major cause of death for firefighters on the job, according to those in the business.
Carson Collins is a volunteer with the Winterville Fire Department. He says, "Fifty-percent of line of duty deaths for firefighters are cardiac related, so we try to coordinate cardio vascular health in with our weight lifting and strength training."
But Collins says part of the problem is when it comes to volunteers, much of that training is on their own time.
Ayden Fire Chief Barry Wood says volunteers have to pass over 100 hours of classes and physical training to become a volunteer firefighter. But after that, he says maintaining that physical stamina is up to the volunteer, not the department. Wood says, "It would be nice if we had the time constraints to do such, and the facilities to do such, but we don't."
But unlike Ayden, Winterville Fire and Rescue officials say they physically test their volunteers annually, depending on their age. Collins says the department started doing that four years ago. He says, they also do weekly training on equipment. Collins says, "Basically, they put you on a bike. It's pretty much like a stress test for your heart."
Wood says every department's funding is different. He says he encourages all of his volunteers to eat healthy and stay fit. He also says what's most important is that the volunteers know their limits.