Putting Out Fires

By Lon Kilgore

In ExPhysiology

March 01, 2007

PDF Article

Honolulu Fire Department, Hawaii; Orange Country Fire Authority and Oakland Fire Department, California; Woodinville Fire and Life Safety District, Washington; Marietta Fire Department, Georgia; Parker Fire District, Colorado. What do all of these fire departments have in common?

You’ve probably already guessed part of the answer: They use CrossFit, officially or unofficially, to prepare for the rigors of their profession. But there’s more. In firefighter competitions around the country, it seems that whenever CrossFit-trained personnel enter, they end up at the top of the field. We might even say that fire companies like those above dominate the competition.

For those of us familiar with CrossFit and its results, this success is not terribly surprising. However, we have observed a phenomenon in these competitions that is curious indeed. In the parts of the competitions that require contestants to use oxygen tanks, CrossFit-trained firefighters consumed less from their oxygen bottles than other competitors. At first this seems odd—winners using less oxygen? The conventional understanding is that the more fit you are, the more oxygen you can consume (i.e., the greater your VO2 max), the higher levels of exertion you can sustain, and the faster you can get the job done.

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2 Comments on “Putting Out Fires”


wrote …

Using less Oxygen or less breathing air from their SCBA?


wrote …

My guess is that it should read "breathing air" since that is what is contained in the cylinder. As all of us in the fire service know, there is a common misconception that our breathing apparatus contains an "oxygen tank" when in reality it's just compressed air.

Yes, competitors are using less oxygen, but they're also using less nitrogen, water vapor and other compounds.

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