You have to have passion.

In the last few months, I have been doing some per diem work as a monitor for the Firefighter Entry Level Physical Ability Test for the Civil Service Testing unit, a division of the Massachusetts Department of Personnel Administration Human Resources Division between that, the Fire Academy and the changes here in my Department, I haven’t written much for Backstep Firefighter, for that I apologize.

The ELPAT testing figures in to the test scoring for the Firefighter Entrance Exam and is the same as the CPAT, the difference is that one only needs to pass 2 out of the seven events (treadmill/cardio endurance, ladder raise, hose advance, forcible entry, search, rescue drag and the ceiling pull event) in order to pass. The ELPAT was designed to show the prospective firefighter what they need to do as a firefighter and to serve as a benchmark for those candidates who need improvement.

As an ELPAT monitor, I have seen a very wide range of people come through the test facility. Some are military veterans, some are kids right out of high school, some are recent college graduates and some are seeking to make a career change. Some of them are physically fit, others could be candidates for the Charles Atlas Body Builder program while others could be part of ABC’s “Extreme Makeover: Weight Loss” and NBC’s “The Biggest Loser”.

One candidate in particular from the group who tested on August 13 stuck out in my mind. He had just turned 40 years old (the average age of the candidates has been 23 to 28), was in decent physical condition and had a few flecks of gray hair.

He completed the treadmill event and literally flew through the other events. The last two events in the cycle, the rescue drag and the ceiling pull event are usually the ones that test the mettle and endurance of all the candidates; he completed the last events in near record time. I congratulated him on his achievement, telling him that he did better than the vast majority of the candidates half his age.

He thanked me for the compliment, then he told me what his motivation was. He had wanted to be a firefighter all of his life, but it was a dream unfulfilled. He lost his wife to cancer last year, and she told him on her deathbed that she wanted him to pursue his dream and become a firefighter. He told me it was a joint effort and that his wife was with him encouraging him.

He wasn’t the older candidate that has come through; a 53 year old military retiree had come through earlier in the week and passed all events and we have had a few others in their early to mid 40’s test and pass. These guys have what I call “the drive”… they want the job so bad they can almost taste it and have kept themselves in good shape and a positive mental attitude. Then I have seen the 20 somethings pass 2 events of the cycle and say “screw it, I did enough to get it figured into my score … why should I bust my ass?” I see this and fear for the future of the Fire Service.

I didn’t ask what fire department the candidate was hoping to get hired onto, but I can say this… he would be an asset and one hell of a good jake.



Ron Ayotte is a Deputy Chief of the Marlborough (MA) Fire Department and employee to the Support Services division of the Massachusetts Department of Fire Service/Massachusetts Firefighting Academy.

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