Sergeant Tommy Williams is 22 years on the Augusta Fire Department, but now and his co-workers face a mandate to get fit. “I'll be 56 next month, so I've got three more years. If it need be, I'll have to shape up or ship out I guess,” said Williams.
Fire officials are now starting a program to shape up. It starts next month, and for first time, firefighters will be required to take a mandatory physical.
“We're trying to prevent the firefighter from going out and having a heart attack. We want the firefighters to do their jobs and then go home to their families,” says Fire Chief Chris James.
To help the firefighters get in shape for the physicals and the job, a professional fitness company, Titus Sports, has been hired to development a wellness program.
And so firefighters can feel comfortable, fellow Augusta firefighters like Lieutenant Laddie Williams are being trained this week by Titus to lead workouts.
The programs will be tailored to fit a firefighter's age and fitness level.
“I think, once everybody realizes that it's going to make them better at the job and it's not something that's going to hurt them, there will be a lot less resistance,” said Williams, who signed up as a trainer because he says this is something he feels passionate about.
For the next year, the workouts are voluntarily, but next year, firefighters will be required to do an hour a day of training during their shifts.
“It's some concern with the older guys but I'm thinking once we get started, and everybody sees how well it's going I think we'll be ok,” says Sergeant Keith White and eighteen year veteran of the department.
“I'm going to do it as well I'll be taking the physical and I'll be participating in the wellness program to,” said Chief James.
Between the physicals and the wellness program the city is paying more than $200,000, all to get the Fire Department in shape top to bottom.