Fortius to help make city's firefighters healthier

Molly O
Molly O'Brien, a strength and conditioning specialist at Fortius Sport and Health, guides Burnaby firefighter Adam Brown through a workout. On Wednesday the City of Burnaby and Fortius announced a partnership that gives the city's firefighters full access to the facility and its fitness and health care professionals to help keep them fit and on the job.

A new program at Fortius Sport and Health for Burnaby firefighters will help make them healthier. It could also improve the health and fitness of firefighters across Canada and around the world.

Wednesday, Fortius joined forces with the City of Burnaby, the Burnaby Fire Department and Firefighters Local 323 to launch a Performance Health program that will help reduce injuries and improve their overall health.

The program costs $500 per firefighter per year, which will be shared between the city and the firefighters' union. It includes an annual physical exam, stress, movement and physical testing, as well as full access to Fortius' workout and rehabilitation facilities as well as its health practitioners like trainers and dieticians.

The goal, said Local 323 president Rob Lamoureux, is to create "a healthier firefighter service" that will ultimately save the city money.

Firefighters face all kinds of hazards to their well-being while on the job, from strains and injuries from hauling heavy equipment to exposure to toxic fumes and chemicals.

Keeping them in top shape and monitoring their health ensures they can continue to do their job, and live long lives, said Lamoureux. "Maybe we can save somebody."

Working with the firefighters will also allow the health professionals at Fortius to collect data about them that can be shared with fire departments elsewhere to create their own wellness programs, said Randy Goodman, the director of Institute Operations at Fortius.

"Our goal is to create a baseline," said Goodman.

Burnaby Mayor Derek Corrigan said the arrangement makes sense.

"Firefighters lead active lives, they get injuries, they do have problems with their health and they do need assistance," said Corrigan. "This facility is recognized worldwide, it's right here in the middle of our city, it's available to all our firefighters. It would be crazy not to use it."

Corrigan said he'd eventually like to see the program extended to other city employees and even the RCMP.

Lamoureux said so far about 180 of Burnaby's 272 firefighters have signed on to the program. He expects that number to improve as word spreads around the fire halls.

"We're hoping this will now be the benchmark for other fire departments," he said.


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