Candidate Physical Ability Test (CPAT)

If you have applied for an entry-level position as a firefighter and you have done well on your written firefighter exam and oral exams, you will be asked to undergo a Candidate Physical Ability Test (“CPAT”). The CPAT is used to evaluate a candidate’s physical conditioning.

A candidate participating in the CPAT is asked to perform a series of tasks that are similar to those that they will be using on the job. There are eight steps to the test, and all of them must be completed in 10 minutes and 20 seconds for either a Pass or Fail grade.

The eight components of the CPAT are as follows:

  1. Stair Climb
  2. Hose Drag
  3. Equipment Carry
  4. Ladder Raise and Extension
  5. Forcible Entry Simulation
  6. Search Simulation
  7. Rescue Simulation
  8. Ceiling Breach and Pull

During the stair climb, the candidate is required to walk up a StairMill at a rate of 60 steps per minute for three minutes. The hose drag portion of the test involves dragging a hose around obstacles.

This portion of the test measures the candidate’s upper body strength and grip strength. The next part of the test, the equipment carry, includes picking up two saws from a cabinet and carrying them for 75 feet before returning them to the cabinet.

The ladder raise and extension is used to determine how well the candidate can raise a ladder at a structure fire, and the forcible entry simulation requires the candidate to use a 10-lb. sledge hammer with a device to measure the level of force being used. The next portion of the test, the search simulation, requires the candidate to crawl through a tunnel on hands and knees. The tunnel measures three feet (height) by four feet (width) and includes various obstacles.

Since firefighters need to be able to move injured people from the scene of a fire or accident, during the rescue simulation the candidate grabs a 165-lb. mannequin by handles on the shoulders or a harness and drags it 35 feet in one direction and then back 35 feet to the starting point. During the ceiling breach and pull, the candidate pushes up on a door in a ceiling three times using a pike and uses the device to pull down five times. Four of these sets must be performed. 

The candidate performs each of these elements while wearing long pants, a hard hat (with a chin strap), work gloves, and work boots or other sturdy footwear. A 50-lb. vest is also worn during the CPAT. This is done to simulate the weight of a SCBA (Self Contained Breathing Apparatus) unit. No running is allowed between the events, which would give the candidate approximately 20 seconds of recovery time between each one.

Two stopwatches are used to keep an accurate account of the time during the test. Both the official stopwatch and the backup one are set to 10 minutes and 20 seconds and set to count down while the CPAT is being conducted. If the time runs out before the candidate has finished the course, then they have failed the test.


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