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CDC: 80% Firefighters are Overweight

Updated: Tuesday, July 22 2014, 11:20 PM CDT
You may assume first responders tasked with saving lives have to be in good shape. But that's not the case, according to results of a new study by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Doctors looked at health records for 1,002 male firefighters and found 82.5% of firefighters were overweight or obese.

Riverton's fire chief Louie Rogers estimates two-thirds of his 25 paid on-call firefighters are overweight.

"It's hard for us as a department to control that. We don't get to go pick individual firefighters, hand-picked. We have to use what's in the community, who's willing to do what we do," Chief Rogers said.

Obesity has been linked to an increased risk of job-related disabilities; and cardiovascular events account for nearly half of the deaths of on-duty firefighters, according to the CDC.

"One of the members I hired dropped dead of a heart attack at a fire, so it is worrisome for me," said Springfield fire chief Ken Fustin.

Fustin says the department has invested in fitness equipment for each fire station and provides a gym membership to every firefighter; paid for through a tax and at no cost to the department.

That helped Captain Joseph Higginson lose 65 lbs since joining the force.

"Carrying that much weight and trying to do this physical job, it would just wear me out. Now when we get done with a call, I definitely still feel like I could respond to another call immediately," Higginson said.

But chief Rogers says this about providing health initiatives in Riverton: "We don't have that luxury."

One thing that could help firefighters improve their health is advice. According to the study, 69% of firefighters reported receiving no weight advice.

    many fire departments in our area - especially in rural areas - are volunteer departments.
    this study measured career firefighters.. but it's just as important for volunteer firefighters to be fit.CDC: 80% Firefighters are Overweight

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