Larry Collins from Los Angeles County Fire Department (USAR Task Force 103) still keeps some ice cream in the refrigerator

Published:  01 September, 2008

Captain Larry Collins has been working for the LA County Fire Department for 28 years, the last 16 years assigned to the department’s central Urban Search and Rescue (USAR) unit. In this time he has come to understand that his staff have to be fit enough to cope with the use of heavy machinery and dealing with potentially traumatic roadside incidents. As such the importance of finding time for exercise is something that the company takes very seriously, “On the urban search and rescue company, our schedule is packed full of training, emergency responses to technical rescues and multi-alarm fires, meetings, public displays of rescue apparatus, and emergency simulation exercises.  So our normal routine for exercising is often interrupted. 

“Because fitness is so important to effective operations we take special care to find time to work out almost every shift on duty, even if it’s later at night.  The personnel themselves want this, and they feel it’s important to maintain top fitness, so they are self-motivated to stay in shape. This includes, for most of them, a pretty rigorous workout routine off duty.”


The importance of fitness that is instilled amongst the firefighters also includes making sure their diet is well suited to the demands of the job. Because the USAR unit covers a “first in” area that includes 21 fire department battalions encompassing more than 2,000 square miles, it is not typical for the company to be in the station during the normal meal times. This means that many meals are eaten on the road between activities, “But there is a natural tendency to avoid the typical fast food joints and take a little more time to have a healthy lunch or early dinner at a place that serves decent food.


“When we are in the fire station, the meals tend to be pretty healthy and the personnel tend to avoid making meals with a lot of fat or other less healthy practices.  As well as that, the personnel on my unit exercise practically every day they can, and so on the whole it’s a healthy lifestyle at work. Although you’ll still find our ice-cream in our refrigerator because you’ve got to enjoy a treat once in a while!” The need to stay fit is something that Capt. Collins has found is already instilled inside his firefighters, “Many of the firefighters and other rescue practitioners are naturally motivated by the demands of their disciplines to be in better physical condition so they can do their job more effectively. The job demands top-level physical fitness to save lives under extreme conditions, so they can still go home to their families at the end of the day, therefore there is no lack of sufficient motivation.”

  • Operation Florian

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