Firefighters are a critical element of public safety and fire protection services throughout the United States. A firefighter is a rescue specialist highly trained in basic firefighting, usually to extinguish fires which threaten life, property, and/or the environment and to rescue human or animal in potentially life-threatening situations. Male firefighters are also sometimes called firemen. Although women have made significant advances in their ability to fight fires and to work in the medical professions, historically, they have been far less dominant in the field than men.
Firefighters must be very fit to perform the physical demands of fighting fires and rescuing and saving people. Because of this physical fitness requirement, firefighters must be regularly tested for physical fitness and health by department supervisors and the American Red Cross to ensure that they are in good health both physically and mentally to perform their duties. The testing is not only done to ensure that they can fight fires effectively but also to make sure that the firefighters are well prepared physically for rescue and medical emergencies. Regular evaluations are one of the most important parts of becoming a certified fire fighter.
Rescue inhalation and advanced airway rescue equipment, including specially designed apparatus and inflatable hoses, are the first lines of defense against fire, as they are capable of sustaining human life for several minutes in burning buildings. Rescue breathing and supplemental oxygen is critical for many firefighters and is another key component of their daily physical fitness training. Firefighters must also be able to use hose reels and fire trucks in addition to being able to pump water. Other important pieces of equipment include firefighting gear such as gloves, helmets, shields, clothing, and tools.
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