Forest Service Employees Prepare for Wildfire Season with Endurance Test in Wauwatosa

Release Date: Oct 22, 2021

Contact(s): Lindsey Lewis


Employees complete the endurance test in the rain.

Photo Courtesy of USDA Forest Service_Forest Service Employees Participate in Endurance Test in the rain in Wauwatosa on Oct. 21 2021.

A weighted camo  vest.

Photo Courtesy of USDA Forest Service_A weight belt weighing 45 pounds worn by Forest Service participants in the Work Capacity test on Oct. 21 2021.

Milwaukee, WI (Oct. 21, 2021) – On Thursday, Oct. 21, Milwaukee-based USDA Forest Service Eastern Region employees prepared for next year’s wildfire season by participating in a grueling physical endurance test known as the “work capacity test” or “pack test.”

The test, which took place on an outdoor track in Wauwatosa, is part of the annual training and physical requirement of wildland firefighters and fire support staff. Participants are qualified in three categories, depending on their role in fire suppression. The most arduous of the tests involves walking 3 miles with 45 pounds of weight on their back in 45 minutes or less, which demonstrates readiness to meet the intense demands of fighting wildfires.

“Wildland firefighting is physically demanding work,” said Steve Miller, Director of Fire and Aviation for the Forest Service’s Eastern Region. “The people managing wildfires need to have sufficient strength, stamina and aerobic capacity for them to function safely. The work capacity test has been established as the most successful way to evaluate if an individual is prepared for the work they may encounter on a fire. It is an important part of preparing to respond to wildfires across the nation.”

While most employees who participate in the pack test are in year-round fire support positions, some are Forest Service employees who hold non-fire jobs but are qualified and ready when called upon to travel nationwide to support fire efforts during the busiest part of the season.

Thursday’s participants included two of the nation’s unmanned aircraft systems program managers, which are year-round fire positions that oversee and fly drones in support of fire suppression efforts. Two participants work in non-fire-related Forest Service positions in the Region’s Air, Land, Water, Soils and Minerals department.

Due to the pandemic and the transition to virtual work, this was the first in-person pack test hosted by the Forest Service’s Eastern Regional Office since 2019. Thursday’s outdoor event included COVID-related safety measures and allowed for social distancing.

In addition to training current employees, the Forest Service is recruiting new staff to support the fire program. The Eastern Region’s Fire and Aviation Management program provides a rewarding opportunity to work on a team of talented colleagues who perform work safely in a variety of specialized positions. For information about working for the USDA Forest Service Fire and Aviation Management program, visit https://www.fs.usda.gov/working-with-us/jobs/fire.