A cop looks at hotshot fitness

A law enforcement officer wrote an article about the fitness standards and programs for interagency hotshot crews. Jim Vaglica is a full-time police sergeant on call 24/7 with a regional SWAT team in the Boston area. He is a strength and conditioning specialist, a police sergeant, and is a cast member of Mark Burnett’s “Expedition Impossible”. The article was published by Bodybuilding.com.

In describing hotshots, he said, “If I had to relate it to my own professional background, I’d say it’s the difference between a squad of police officers and a SWAT team.”

Below are more excerpts from the article:



Unlike fighting structure fires, where brute strength is paramount, the physical demands of wildland firefighting are vastly different. You’re not going to be carrying a 200-pound man down a flight of stairs and out of a burning building. No one on the crew gives a crap “How much ya bench?” All they care about is that you can swing a tool all day without bitching and moaning, and then get up the next day and do it again. If you look at most hotshot crews, you’ll see a lot of slender builds. Excessive muscle mass doesn’t get you anywhere. It just slows you down.


When you’re actually fighting a fire, the almost unbearable conditions seem to have no end. After a few hours of working in 110-degree heat with no shade, you may start to think that there’s no way you can finish the day, but you know that everyone else on your crew is suffering too. You just push through it for the guys on either side of you. If you go down, they’ll have to pick up your slack. When you’re in the middle of nowhere punching in line, you can’t just jump in your car and go home. You take another big swig of hot water, you deal with it, and you keep going.”

Author: Bill Gabbert

After working full time in wildland fire for 33 years, he continues to learn, and strives to be a Student of Fire. Google+

4 thoughts on “A cop looks at hotshot fitness”

  1. 75% of Hotshotting is mental toughness especially when you have been going nonstop for 4 months; your body, mind, and soul are spent and you know their is still two+ months left in the season to go, you have to dig deep.

  2. Seems like I vaguely remember years ago reading that T1 crews exceeded all other sports (e.g. marathoners, Olympic skiers, etc.) for fitness requirements and caloric needs. Mangan, help me out here, where is that?

    1. Comparing fighting fires especially hotshot crews to a sport or other athletes is really absurd; they are not even close to being the same thing.

  3. An ancient Roman writer once noted that while gladiators often had big muscles, the legionary soldiers who humped their packs from Gaul to Dacia tended to be lean. Maybe there is an analogy here.

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