Physical fitness test for wildland firefighters used in Alberta, Canada

This video shows the physical fitness test, WFX-FIT, used to evaluate wildland firefighters in Alberta, Canada.

The Pack Test version of the Work Capacity Test and the Step Test used by the Federal agencies in the United States basically measure how fast you can walk and how low you can keep your pulse rate, respectively. The Step Test was replaced by the Work Capacity Test.

The WFX-FIT used in some areas of Canada, which first saw widespread use in 2012, is described as “a valid job-related physical performance standard used to determine whether an individual possesses the physical capabilities necessary to meet the rigorous demands encountered while fighting wildland fires.” Here is a link to more information about the test.

Your thoughts on the WFX-FIT 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+

9 thoughts on “Physical fitness test for wildland firefighters used in Alberta, Canada”

  1. The structural side went to CPAT testing to make it more realistic for the job demands. Ive been saying for awhile it was curious to me that the wildland side still did the pack test.

    1. The Pack test is passively Discriminatory in that a shorter person has to work harder to achieve the same time and distance , I have noticed those that seem to pass the test with ease are white males… I know i had to go there but hear me out. Females are almost shorter than males so there is that, I do know a few exceptions but overall its a fact… hispanics are the same, generally shorter than white males as well and fall into the same category and physical challenge as females as far as the pack test goes. Its been argued to me that tall people have more weight to carry but I say they also have more fuel and muscle mass. If the pack test is to truly be fair then there should be either a weight or time adjustment for the shorter led stride AND a lighter weight for Firefighters over 50 that are out in the field to lead and not pound the ground or run a saw. Maybe then we would stop killing people with the current unrealistic test.

      1. Don’t really disagree with your comments RM. I had the same issue years ago with the step test. Way back when I had a chance at NIFC to ask Dr. Sharkey on why the difference in the step box height for male and female. He said the average male was 5’10, the average female was 5’7. Hence the box height difference. I then asked I am only 5’7″ with boots on. Shouldn’t I use the lower box even though I am a male? He had no real response. Way back when till the pack test came out I always opted for the 1.5 mile run.

        I personally believe the US should adapt something like the test Canada uses.

      2. I believe it’s time that the whole fitness standards be reviewed, and made more specific to actual, real-world needs. I’ve heard it argued that the pack test really isn’t an adequate test for, say, a hand crew. I’d agree, as I’ve passed it and certainly haven’t belonged on a hand crew in years. At the same time, as an ICT3 in today’s world, I do not require the same level of fitness as someone on an engine or crew, yet requirements are currently the same. Yes, at one time, that position was out on the mountain with their crew, but now it’s an ICP position, and I only see fire on a recon flight. Some level of fitness should still be required, but not the same as what’s required of folks who are actually hiking and working all day and must still have the energy reserves to run for their life if needed-my ability to walk at an unnatural pace isn’t relevant to the job I do. Time to adjust to reflect current, real-world duties of each position.

  2. WFX is job-specific but mighty difficult to administer. Of course, the Canadians seem to manage.

    I’d like to see a two-tier system. First tier is easy to administer, easy to compare, and somewhat job-specific. Think USMC PFT. This is the one that everyone takes and that you can list on your resume when applying for jobs. Something like the USMC PFT or the BLM fitness test would probably work fine. Run, do some chins, I guess do some situps.

    The second tier is harder to administer but more job-specific. The obvious analogy here is the USMC CFT, but I think we already have an informal version of this with the district/station/resource PT hill–it’s very job-specific insofar as hiking up the hill in full gear is exactly what you do on the job, but if you have 100 people applying for seasonal spots at your station you can’t issue them all gear and hike them up the hill. So the first-tier test shrinks the pool to a manageable size and then you have a second-tier test to see who’s really ready for the job.

  3. Hey Bill, I’m old school enough to have been through a number of fit tests over the years. The test currently used by Alberta is a national standard here in Canada and regardless of who you are, where you’re from, male, female, short , tall, if you want to be a Type 1 wildland firefighter and be exportable to other provinces or states, you are doing this test. I’m short and not a big fan of the ramps (they are pretty harsh on the knees and ankles and don’t really simulate the terrain we work in out there) and the simulated pump and sled drag is just a new fangled version of the ‘pump carry, hose drag’ we did in the old test. Same test, similar times, except we used an actual MK 3 pump and dragged actual charged hose while hiking back and forth over actual terrain.
    The National standard is a good thing however, if I’m ordering up type 1 crews from anywhere in Canada, I at least know their level of fitness. Thanks for posting this, given the amount of resource sharing and border crossing we’re doing these days maybe it would be good to see a fitness standard across all agencies.

  4. Just face it folks, younger people are just not cutting it anymore. Instant gratification for a while then gone from the fire service. Tall or short, fat or skinny you still have to walk the same amount of terrain on a fire with your pack full of whatever you put in it. Don’t ask me for water when you run out. Flat terrain pack tests are so easy to pass. If you had a fire chasing you maybe faster. If you can’t do it at sea level then try it at higher elevations where the mountains are, 8000 feet, or more, so fun. Try to get big muscles is not a wild land firefighter. Take a clue from nature and how big and fat deer and elk ankles are. Just saying that if you want to be a true wild land firefighter you would have no excuses about your physical fitness.

  5. The Webfx test unlike the Prefit test has had a number of unintended consequencies(injuries,loss of older staff etc).I have to agree when you get a Type 1 crew from anywhere in canada except Nfld and now Sask you get a standard level of fitness.What you don’t get is an experienced crew.What this new test has done is eliminate the key 12-18 year folks who provide the leadership and hand down the tricks of the trade ,if you will, to the new staff.After 40 yrs of banging away at fires in the Boreal Forest it is shocking to see how green the Type 1 I/A crews in Canada have now become.What we now have at our Attack Bases coast to coast is “Occupational alhletes” which are more often than not as green as grass. Give me a crew with a combination of “brain and brawn” and we can fight fires anywhere in the Boreal and all come home at the end of the day.This test must be reconfigured (as it was legally considered not bonifide) to accomadate women and folks 35+ and until it is we will be losing more fires and burning more values. Bottom line, in the bush experience matters in all facets of the job.

    1. Couldn’t agree with you more Snake, well said – the leadership is leaving and the crews are greener all the time.

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