The Work Capacity Test

Wildland firefighting is physically demanding. As a new FFT2 the assumption is that you’ll work on either a hand crew (digging line, clearing brush, hauling water or equipment, etc.) or an engine crew (staffing a fire engine, deploying and retrieving hose, hauling pumps, etc.) engaged in suppression activities. This is the common starting point for persons engaging in wildland fire summer jobs or careers, and requires an “arduous” work capacity rating.

If you’re getting your FFT2 qualification to do something other than wildland fire suppression you can probably choose one of two, less intensive, work capacity ratings. The “moderate” rating may be accepted for persons working on prescribed fires, but check with the entity conducting the burn to confirm. The “light” rating is generally reserved for persons who will only work in administrative/logistical support roles. If your anticipated “fire” role will be doing research in burned areas, ask your professor or agency representative what work capacity rating they want you to maintain.

Work Capacity Test Options

Work Capacity RatingArduousModerateLight
Test NamePack TestField TestWalk Test
Pack Weight45lbs25lbsNone
Distance3 miles2 miles1 mile
Time Limit45 minutes30 minutes16 minutes

The Work Capacity Tests are conducted on flat ground, generally paved. You must walk – not run. If you do the math, the arduous and moderate tests both require a 4 mile per hour pace. That’s faster than you may be accustomed to, particularly when carrying a pack. I strongly recommend you start preparing for your WCT well in advance and work up to the pace, distance, and weight.

College of Forestry WCT Details

For Work Capacity Tests conducted through the College of Forestry program you’ll be asked to provide your own pack, and I don’t limit your pack options. Select one that is comfortable and carries the weight well. (The pack’s weight will be part of the total weight.) Weight lifting weights, full water bottles, bags of gravel and similar make good weights to get you to the test’s target.

You do NOT need to wear wildland fire PPE for the WCT. You can dress for the environment and wear any footwear that allows you to complete the physical test successfully and safely.

As you consider which rating you want to seek, I encourage you to aim for arduous, but please don’t hurt yourself. If you have physical restrictions choose the WCT that makes the most sense.

How often do I need to take the WCT?

The Work Capacity Test rating is good for the calendar year, expiring on December 31. Most fire personnel take the test in the early spring, right before their fire season starts. They do this as part of an “annual refresher” known in the fire world as the RT-130. This is an approx. 6 hour update on fire safety, coupled with the WCT and a fire shelter deployment. Plan to take your RT-130 annually.

What happens if I miss taking the WCT?

I offer the work capacity test at least twice per year at OSU, and offer the test off campus for other groups – so if you need to take the WCT drop me a note and I’ll do my best to accommodate you. You may also be able to obtain the WCT from federal or state agencies, The Nature Conservancy, community colleges that teach fire, or a rural fire department.

Note that missing the annual refresher and/or WCT does NOT invalidate your FFT2 qualification; that qualification just goes inactive until you complete the RT-130 including the WCT.

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