A new fitness program is designed to improve heart health for Spokane firefighters

In 2019, sudden cardiac arrest was a leading cause for firefighter fatalities, according to the NFPA.

SPOKANE, Wash. — You have to be in good shape to be a first responder, but local firefighters are working on their fitness to prevent heart attacks in the field.

In 2019, sudden cardiac arrest was a leading cause for firefighter fatalities, according to the National Fire Protection Association. No local firefighters were part of that, and Spokane Fire Department wants to keep it that way.

You may remember P.E. class while you were in school. Your teacher told you it was to improve your conditioning, strength, even your cardiac health. Those same rules apply at Spokane Fire – they need to keep up with their health so they can do their job, and do it well.

A place called ‘The Attic’ is where you can find Spokane Fire doing dynamic stretches, explosive exercises, and repetition after repetition.

It’s all to improve stamina, core strength, and more importantly – cardiovascular health.

“While we haven’t had a line of duty death related to cardiac arrest, I don’t see any reason to wait for something to happen to do something about it,” said Capt. Ty Bruner, Spokane Fire Department.

Spokane Fire started a pilot program last year, creating a fitness plan tailored to each firefighter’s needs.

“I’ve been involved in a very physical line of work. I am not getting any younger. Doing it, and I had to find something that was going to work,” Capt. Bruner said.

Firefighters said with all the injuries that come along with the job, the workouts help give their bodies a solid base.

“When we go out on a call, especially in the middle of the night, we don’t have the opportunity to warm up, or stretch out, or do any of those things. If we are going to a multiple-alarm fire, we are going to be there the rest of the night,” Capt. Bruner said.

Firefighters run a higher risk of injury. If they’re hurt on the job, that’s one less person on the lines.

“You’re not the only one on your crew. There is two or three other guys on your crew. You owe it to them to stay in shape.,” said Lt. Ethan Verduin, Spokane Fire Department.

“It’s not about your delts or your pecs and your abs. It’s all those little muscles in there that need to be working properly and need to be strengthened properly to keep people from getting hurt,” Capt. Bruner said.

That image of a person in uniform holding a hose is only a fraction of what they do everyday.

“They don’t see the interior of what’s going on. As walls are being torn out, and ceilings are being torn out. And we’re searching and extinguishing all of the hidden fire that’s inside of that structure,” Capt. Bruner said.

That level of danger means everyone needs to do their part, which starts at The Attic.

As of right now, they have nearly 100 people in Spokane Fire taking part in the fitness program. Capt. Bruner told 4 News Now, the goal is to eventually have everyone in Spokane Fire taking part.