In the Black! | Conservation Conversations

It was a gentle incline, not all that noticeable, but my shins were telling me a different story. My shins hurt like I just walked up 99 floors of a 100 story building. And I was only half way through the course. It’s the usual pain in the beginning. This is not my first time here.

I said to Frank who was walking with me: “my sister died of lung cancer two years ago and I do the pack test for her now, just to let her know I am still off the butts”! I looked up at the overcast sky and asked her if she was watching, to give us a little push to help us along. Frank was carrying a heavier pack and I figured he could use a little help too. He’s young and really didn’t need it. As for me, I’ll take all the help I can get. We crossed the finish line in 43 min, 10 seconds; we beat the clock once again.

The Work Capacity Test (WCT) or pack test is carrying a 45 pound pack on a three mile hike in less than 45 minutes to qualify for out of state forest fire crews. Every wildland firefighter needs to complete the pack test, every year, if they want to be an out of state firefighter. This endurance test separates the men from the boys, as they say. Your competition is with yourself! What it boils down to is that you need to be in shape, and after a long winter like this past one, that is not easy.

Fire fighters wanting to go out of state must complete both the refresher and the pack test, while in state fire firefighters just need the refresher course.

New York State Department of Environmental Conservation Forest Rangers teach the Annual Fireline Refresher training course throughout the state every year. Training for our area was held in Warrensburg on Saturday March 29 and April 3 in Ray Brook; both at the DEC regional headquarters.

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