Fatality during Work Capacity Test in Arizona

There has been another fatality of a person attempting to take the Work Capacity Test. There are three versions of the test — the most strenuous, the Pack Test, is required for federal wildland firefighters in order to become qualified to serve in a position which involves direct action on a wildland fire.

Below is the text from a preliminary 24-hour briefing from the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service:



Location: Buenos Aires National Wildlife Refuge, Sasabe Arizona
Date of Occurrence: June 6, 2015
Time of Occurrence: Approximately 0800 hours
Activity: Work Capacity Test
Number and type of injuries/fatalities: One, Fatality
Property loss: None


At approximately 0800 hours on June 6, 2015, a 31 year old Student Conservation Association (SCA) employee, Veteran Fire Corps crewmember, collapsed 200 yards from the finish line while participating in the Wildland Firefighter Work Capacity Test. Medical care was immediately rendered by on-site, local EMS including the utilization of an Automated External Defibrillator (AED). The individual was loaded in the Ambulance, which had been staged on-site for the test, within 5 minutes of his collapse and transported to an Advanced Care Facility.

The cause of death has not yet been determined.

The name of the deceased has not yet been released pending family notifications.” (end of report)

(UPDATE, June 9, 2015: the name of the firefighter has been released.)


Here are examples of five other fatalities while taking the Pack test.

In 2012 there was a near fatality during the test when a firefighter in Indiana suffered a full cardiac arrest. Thankfully, as a result of the precautions that were in place, including the presence of an Automatic External Defibrillator (AED), there was a positive outcome.

Articles on Wildfire Today tagged “Pack Test”.

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+

16 thoughts on “Fatality during Work Capacity Test in Arizona”

  1. I know of 2 pack test fatalities in Oregon, 1998 and 2003 or so. Most agencies now require a physical if certain parameters are not met. Under certain conditions or at a certain age, an EKG test may be required as well.

  2. First off I’m very sorry that one of our bredrin lost their life.

    Speaking as a EMT-F and being 57 years old the arduous pack test isn’t easy and it should not be.

    That being said and to be brutally honest people need to train in advance. Not use caffeine, stimulants, energy drinks or any type of drugs to increase their performance.
    All the medical checkups, doctors visits and screening will not stop people from self destructing.

    it should also be noted I am NOT making the statement as to any knowledge of this individual what they did or did not do and I put no blame on the individual themselves in this case. I’m just speaking in general.

    Also please forgive me if I sound heartless to say it’s better to happen with an ambulance standing by and minutes away from a hospital than on the fireline hours away and consuming valuable resources.

    1. I totally agree. My kids have taken the test several times and have always prepared well in advance of taking it. It is so incredibly sad to lose someone when they are testing for such a noble position. At 31 yo, he/she likely had no reason to believe this test would not go well. People can have heart conditions at an early age that they are not at all aware of

      1. My son had a heart attack at 16 years. Of age we. Had no knowledge of a heart weakness…he however after rehab and treatment served in the State Forestry and the U.S. marines in a capacity fitting his ability…there is a fire that just started the next canyon over…I am grateful for the various agencies and rural citizens that pull together during these times….firefighting is the nearest to active combat type fighting that I know of .

  3. Condolences to the family, he was trying to meet the standard to serve the objective of fire fighting….

  4. Here lies the problem, the Pack Test has become a means to and end for structure departments who have Wildland Urban Interface areas. Why you might ask? Because of contractual agreements with various units, MOU to receive call out to fires. Money to the fire budget, grant monies for equipment etc. then leads to firefighters attempting the Pack Test as a requirement for employment. Curiously the majority of firefighters will never be on the line digging to mineral soil yet the pressures of budgets bely this fact. Long story, even longer, we are placing our brothers and sisters in harms way for money. My own story, 31 career retired firefighter, 1993-2013 red card in hand for the urban interface. I used the U.S. Forrest Service training program each year to avoid failure and a medical incident. My department mandated all members be red carded five years ago and it’s only a matter of time when an catastrophic event occurs. Be safe all 10-18 LCES. Retired ground pounder.

  5. The number of cardiac arrests is higher than statistics show, since not all of them are reported. A Washington state crew foreman died after training for the arduous pack test several years ago, but since his death occurred outside the workplace, it was not investigated as a WCT fatality. Another collapsed during another test but was revived after several attempts by AED.

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