Physical Ability Test

Notice:  The testing process and sequence of events are subject to change. Candidates must consult the applicant packet at the time of submission for the most current requirements. The information provided below is offered as a general example and may not be specific to the test administered.


Beginning in March of 2023 the CFD will implement a revised process utilizing firefighter fitness and training equipment provided by FireSled. The Physical Ability Test (PAT) is a tool used by the Charleston Fire Department to evaluate a candidate’s level of physical fitness.  Candidates will perform several tasks similar to those performed by firefighters on the job and must successfully complete all stations, in the time designated, to receive a passing score.  The PAT consists of 13 tasks, that must be performed in a specific sequence, and is a PASS/FAIL event.  Candidates are not ranked according to completion time. 

During each hiring cycle, every effort is made to provide the opportunity to join a practice day in advance of the live testing date.  This gives individuals without fire service experience an opportunity to see what each station looks like, how all equipment feels, and to have an opportunity to practice any or all components of the PAT.  Practice days are not guaranteed. 

Demonstration video from FireSled: Physical Ability Video

General Rules & Guidelines  

  1. Candidates must have a valid driver’s license.   
  2. Candidate must have the Medical Clearance and Disclaimer of Liability (PDF) signed by a doctor in order to participate.
  3. Candidates must sign a liability waiver.    
  4. No spectators are allowed.   
  5. No cheering or coaching from proctors or other candidates.   
  6. Required Gear: Helmet, Gloves, Simulated Air Pack (50lbs)  (These items will be provided to you).
  7. Candidate will be timed from start to finish.
  8. You may not run at any time during the course. 
  9. Failure to complete any individual task will result in disqualification.
  10. Candidate must follow the instructions provided by the proctors.   
  11. During the live examination, proctors may provide instruction but may not conduct a demo.   
  12. If candidate says they wish to stop the test or cannot complete the event, the candidate is then disqualified.    
  13. Candidate will not be able to continue if they are disqualified or exceed the specified time.  

Events in the Physical Ability Test 

1st Task – Equipment Carry 

• Carry a 20 lbs. and 25 lbs. kettle bell for a total distance of 100 feet. 

• Time starts when the kettle bells are removed from the platform. 

• Follow the designated path and return both to the platform. 

 2nd Task: Forced Entry Simulator 

• Uses a sledgehammer to simulate forced entry using a right-handed and left-handed grip. 

• Pick up the sledgehammer and strike the target sled with your right hand high and your left hand low. 

• Strike the target as many times as required to move the sled across the full track length. 

• Once the target sled reaches the end of the track, reverse your grip and strike the target sled until its returned to the starting position. 

• Return the Sledgehammer to its designated storage area. 

• You must STRIKE, not push, the yellow target sled during this task. 

• Always keep your eye on the target sled and strike at the center. 

• It is recommended that you allow your hips to drive the movement of your upper body. 

• Short chopping blows are acceptable if it better suits your height and body type. 

 3rd Task – Walk a designated path 

• This task simulates sustained fireground activity. 

• Walk the designated path from start to finish. 

• Do not stop.

• You may walk quickly but do NOT run at any time. 

 4th Task - Ladder Carry 

• This task simulates a 24-foot aluminum extension ladder. 

• Start by lifting the 65 lbs. ladder simulator from its mount. 

• Carry the ladder simulator for a total distance of 100 feet. 

• Return the ladder simulator to its mount. 

• You may position the ladder simulator on the shoulder or hold the simulator with both hands. 

• You may NOT drag the simulator on the ground at any time. 

 5th task – Ladder Climb 

• This Task simulates climbing 50 feet up a ladder during firefighting operations. 

• The climbing simulator allows for continuous climbing and uses your body weight combined with the set level of resistance to control the pace of the climb. 

• When you mount the ladder, the proctor will apply FULL resistance until you have climbed approximately halfway onto the simulator. 

• Once mounted, the proctor will set the simulator to mid-level resistance. 

• Notify the proctor if you wish to go faster or slower. 

• Your Proctor will set the resistance one level up or down per request you make. 

• Once you notify the proctor that you wish to climb faster, you may not request to slow down. 

• Likewise, once you request to go slower you may not request to speed up. 

• Proctor will instruct you when you have reached the required 50-foot distance. 

• Once you are told you have reached the required distance, you will dismount the simulator. 

 6th Task – Perimeter Walk. 

• This task involves walking the entire perimeter of the course until you reach the seventh task. 

• You may walk quickly, Do NOT run. 

 7th Task – Charged hose-line advance 

• This task simulates dragging a hose line charged with water during fireground operations. 

• You will drag the simulator 50 feet. 

• Your Proctor will tell you to stop once the hose-line simulator has reached the target area. 

• Proper technique is important – Place hose over the shoulder and walk away from the simulator to remove slack in the hose. 

• Straighten your arms in front of your body until your arms are locked.

• Grip the nozzle and lean forward and drive your body toward the target. 

• Once the simulator starts moving, advance forward with short quick steps to maintain momentum. 

• Once you start moving, do not stop until instructed to do so by the proctor. 

 8th task – Equipment Carry 

• This task simulates carrying equipment on the fireground. 

• You will carry a single 45 lbs. kettle bell for 100 feet. 

• Lift the kettlebell in a controlled manor from the platform and follow the designated path. 

• Return the bell by placing it onto the platform. 

9th Task – Crawl 

• Assume a crawling position BEHIND the designated starting line on the mat. 

• You will crawl 25 feet on your hands and knees OR hands and feet. 

 10th Task – Hose feed 

• This task simulates feeding a charged hose line to another firefighter while performing firefighting operations. 

• First, take position in the target box. 

• You MUST be in a kneeling or seated position and keep your body within the box during the entire task. 

• Grab the hose line and pull it in using your upper body. 

• You will be instructed to stop by the proctor when the 20-foot marking on the hose passes the front edge of the target box. 

 11th task – Walking along path to the next task 

12th task – Ceiling Breach and Pull 

• This task simulates breaching the ceiling with a pike pole during overhaul operations. 

• Mount the platform and take hold of the pike pole with both hands. 

• You will begin to perform 20 breach and pull repetitions. 

• Your Proctor will count reach repetition. 

• A single repetition consists of pulling downward with the pole until further downward motion is not possible and then pushing upward until further motion isn’t possible. 

• You may use any grip or stance to complete this task however proper technique will maximize performance. 

• It is recommended that you position your feet in a staggered stance with knees slightly bent. 

• Starting with the bottom position, push up until you feel and hear the simulator meet resistance. 

• Do not stop until the proctor indicates you have stopped all reps. 

• If you do not make contact on both the up AND down strike, the cycle must be repeated. 

 13th – Victim Rescue 

• This task simulates dragging a victim away from danger. 

• You must drag the sled backwards for a total of 50 feet. 

• Begin by grabbing the loops on the end of each strap. 

• Do NOT place hands through the loops of the strap and grab the strap itself. This could result in injury. 

• Once you have proper grip, move backwards, lean back at the waist and pull until the sled is in motion. 

• Do not stop until the proctor tells you to do so. 

• Do NOT look over your shoulders while pulling as this can result in injury.