After a firefighter from the South Metro Fire District nearly died from a heart attack on duty, the department decided to change how it goes about keeping its firefighters healthy.
"They hooked me up to the heart monitor and and immediately saw that something wasn't right. And then at that time I went into arrest," firefighter Nick Gravina said, speaking openly about his massive heart attack.
Gravina was 40 years old and appeared in good shape when he had a heart attack after finishing a firefighter fitness test.
"I guess in that way it was a good thing because it made us evaluate what are we missing as far as this test is not really truly telling us if we're fit for this job," he said.
In the wake of the incident, South Metro started making changes. They scrapped the standard fitness test, hired a wellness expert, and took a new approach to firefighter fitness.
"We look at muscular endurance, muscular strength, mobility and flexibility, aerobic fitness, and body comp," wellness manager Vince Garcia said.
They instituted new specialized tests for each individual, trying to better prepare the department's 280 firefighters for the stresses of the job.
"So the job itself will spike your heart rate. What we're trying to do is prepare our firefighters in the best way possible to withstand that spike," Garcia added.
On average, heart attacks are responsible for nearly half of yearly firefighter deaths.