Physiological response to firefighting activities of various work cycles using extended duration and prototype SCBA

Richard M. Kesler, Ipek Ensari, Rachel E. Bollaert, Robert W. Motl, Elizabeth T. Hsiao-Wecksler, Karl S. Rosengren, Bo Fernhall, Denise L. Smith, Gavin P. Horn

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Firefighters’ self-contained breathing apparatus (SCBA) protects the respiratory system during firefighting but increases the physiological burden. Extended duration SCBA (>30 min) have increased air supply, potentially increasing the duration of firefighting work cycles. To examine the effects of SCBA configuration and work cycle (length and rest), 30 firefighters completed seven trials using different SCBA and one or two bouts of simulated firefighting following work cycles common in the United States. Heart rate, core temperature, oxygen consumption, work output and self-reported perceptions were recorded during all activities. Varying SCBA resulted in few differences in these parameters. However, during a second bout, work output significantly declined while heart rates and core temperatures were elevated relative to a single bout. Thirty seven per cent of the subjects were unable to complete the second bout in at least one of the two-bout conditions. These firefighters had lower fitness and higher body mass than those who completed all assigned tasks. Practitioner Summary: The effects of extended duration SCBA and work/rest cycles on physiological parameters and work output have not been examined. Cylinder size had minimal effects, but extended work cycles with no rest resulted in increased physiological strain and decreased work output. This effect was more pronounced in firefighters with lower fitness.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)390-403
Number of pages14
Issue number3
StatePublished - Mar 4 2018


  • Firefighting
  • core temperature
  • heart rate
  • work cycle, self-contained breathing apparatus

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Human Factors and Ergonomics
  • Physical Therapy, Sports Therapy and Rehabilitation


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