Local Rescue Teams Test Their Physical Fitness Skills

An upcoming law enforcement competition had us wondering.  Just how physically fit are local officers?

For the answer, we stopped at Biloxi's new public safety center.  It has a gym for firemen and police officers. It's where they train, when they're not fighting fires, cooking dinner, or relaxing on the couch. "I do my share of that, too," Billy Sheppard said as the fireman stood in the gym area. "But you've got to put in your two hours over here working out."

Not everybody spends two hours in the gym. But most firemen do pump iron. According to Clay Shuttleworth, "Staying fit and working out and eating right is part of the job."

Shuttleworth lifts weights five days a week. In his spare time, he participates in toughman competitions. But most of the weight work is to help him fight fires. "What if I had to pull you out of a house," he said. "You need to be in shape. It's just part of it."

Biloxi regulations require all fire department applicants to be in pretty decent shape. To qualify for a job, you must complete an agility test that includes carrying a 125 pound weight 100 feet, doing 35 deep knee situps in two minutes, and running a mile-and-a-half in 13 minutes.

Police officers have their own workout routines. They also place a lot of emphasis on physical fitness. As Tim McKaig prepared to run a leg in the 2001 Police and Fire World Games torch run, the Biloxi police officer talked about fitness. He said, "Not only does it help reduce stress on the job, it helps you manage stress better, and control of a suspect also."

Clay Shuttleworth had a more basic reason for spending so much time in the gym. "Not being in physically fit shape," he said, "it can hurt you."

And the only pain officers like to feel is the muscle burn from a torch run, or a good workout.

Heart attacks are the number one killer of firemen. That was another reason why the Biloxi firefighters said they spend time in the gym.