If anyone exercised on duty, it was usually more out of boredom or a personal desire to be stronger, and the workouts were usually limited to lifting weights someone had brought in from home.
Other than fighting fires and, in some places, staffing load-and-go ambulances, you performed few community services.
Firefighters are now expected to behave like responsible public employees during their time on duty and to treat the fire station like the workplace it is. As might be expected, some fire departments have come farther than others; many have yet to make many of the changes mentioned above.
If you were a city firefighter in the 1960’s, your job usually consisted of taking care of the fire engines, the station and putting out fires.
Your protective gear — probably a canvas or rubber coat, thigh-length boots, and a heavy leather helmet with no eye protection — would now be considered primitive and unsafe.
Up until World War II, most departments used a 24-on/24-off schedule that persists in the federal sector today.
With so much of one’s time spent in the station, and with work time encompassing aspects of domestic life such as cooking, eating, showering and sleeping, it is not surprising that firehouses were viewed as very different from other workplaces.
You probably had nothing to protect your lungs from the smoke and heat of a fire; coughing and choking on toxic fumes, and sometimes throwing up afterwards, were just part of being a good, tough firefighter.
Overall concern for the health and fitness of firefighters was minimal.
More importantly, your approach to your firefighting career should be even longer-range than that.
Getting ready for to become a firefighter should start years before you ever submit your first job application, ideally while you’re still in high school.
But for those who do not see these aspects of the job as deterrents, firefighting is an exciting, ever-changing, highly rewarding occupation.
Most firefighters enjoy the warmth of camaraderie among the crew, the challenge of bringing physical skills and mental abilities to play in what for others is an emergency, and the opportunity to provide critical, life-saving services in a moment of need.
Women have been functioning successfully as career firefighters and officers for more than 25 years, and as volunteers for much longer.