In the wake of a Hellsgate fire lieutenant’s death during a routine pack test earlier this year, the department has instituted a mandatory physical training program.
Longtime volunteer firefighter Bobby Mollere, 61, collapsed and died March 8 during a three-mile test with a 45-pound pack on the Payson High School track to qualify for a season of wildland firefighting.
As Mollere rounded a corner on the track, he collapsed into the arms of a fellow firefighter and died despite feverish efforts to save him.
It was the first time a Rim Country firefighter died on duty.
Afterward, as department officials reviewed his benefits, they realized they needed to make changes. While Mollere was fit and qualified for benefits, not all firefighters would be if they don’t meet certain requirements.
Mainly, a firefighter is not covered under the public safety officer benefits after their shift if they have not been physically active while on duty.
If a firefighter has participated in training, worked out or responded to calls during their shift, then he or she is covered for the 24 hours after leaving the station. Mollere qualified because he had run calls and was participating in training, said Hellsgate Fire Chief David Bathke.
“This is just to protect our guys, because of the adrenaline
dump in our system when we go on calls, there are guys that leave the station and keel over of heart attacks or other things,” he said.
In addition, instituting a physical training program is just good practice and something stations around the country are doing or have already done.
Hellsgate bought a new treadmill and improved the Star Valley station workout room.
Full-time firefighters are now required to workout one to two hours every shift. It is optional for reserves.