Augusta Fire Department begins new wellness program

News 12 at 6 o'clock / Tuesday, June 18, 2013

AUGUSTA, Ga. (WRDW) -- If your house is on fire, you probably want someone in good shape coming to save you. The Augusta Fire Department is trying to make sure that is the case.

The department has started a new healthy lifestyle plan, so cooking veggies is becoming a little more routine at Augusta fire stations.

"We're trying to eat healthy with more greens and baked foods, grilled foods, trying to get away from the fried stuff," Lt. Joey Smith said.

And it isn't just about healthy food, it's about a whole new healthy lifestyle.

"Personally, I want to live to be 100, but you've got to take care along the way," Smith said.

The entire department is starting a new wellness program, starting with physicals for every firefighter.

"We had a firefighter have a heart attack in the fire station, which brought to our attention the health of a firefighter has a direct effect on how they can perform on the job," Chief Chris James said.

Batallion Chief Frank Lanier said, "We have all kinds of medical problems, firefighters do. It's just known, there's not too many old of us, old firemen."

The Augusta Fire Department is trying to change that. After this year's comprehensive physical, firefighters will be required to work out at least one hour of every shift. Right now it's optional, but starting next June, it will be required.

"For some guys, it'll be a transition. I don't normally go and hit a machine an hour a day," Smith said.

But James says it's a necessary transition, one that will help save not just the firefighters' lives, but maybe even your life.

"I think we'll actually see fires getting put out quicker, you'll see a direct effect on how rescues are able to be performed," James said.

They're hoping the program changes the culture in the fire department, meaning more check-ups, more exercise and better eating habits to keep first responders healthy.

"It'll be a much healthier and fit fire department in the end," Smith said.

The firefighters are all getting comprehensive physicals right now, and some are training to be peer fitness coaches. Chief James says as the program goes on, they're hoping response times go up, and sick days and workman's compensation claims go down.

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