Exercise program prepares firefighters

IRVINE Orange County Fire Authority (OCFA) Academy coordinator Mike Contreras says a special wellness and fitness program called WEFIT has changed the way they train at OCFA.

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Each drill lasts about 30 seconds. Each person wears a heart monitor, so instructors can see who is improving and who needs help. Each exercise is designed to help recruits prepare for what they'll experience on the job. It's the big difference between this program and others, which often focus just on running or cardiovascular workouts.

"It's so functional. Everything we do here either relates to climbing ladders or pulling hose. It's got a specific purpose," said recruit Zack Zarrilli. "Definitely makes it easier when we get on the line."

Authorities started this special program after they noticed one-third of each academy was suffering injuries. Officials estimate one injured person costs about $12,000.

Since the program started two years ago, injuries have dropped.

"Where we had eight to 10 injuries per academy, to where over five academies, we've had three injuries total," said Contreras.

Officials say the $40,000 spent on the equipment has already paid for itself.

"This means a healthier workforce, reduced costs for the department and citizens of Orange County, and hopefully employees that are happier for a long career," said Contreras.


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