Firefighters work to prevent biggest killer - heart attack

PLYMOUTH TWP., Pa. - November 5, 2012

No one can deny it's a stressful job.

"I asked one firefighter to describe firefighting, he said 'imagine crawling through an oven with a 60 pound anvil on my back, breathing through a straw,'" firefighter David Wurtzel said.

Wurtzel knows that feeling well.

Still he was shocked to find out the biggest killer of firefighters isn't smoke or fire, it's heart attack.

In 2010, 39-year-old Daniel McIntosh, a paramedic in Bensalem, Bucks County, died of a massive heart attack while trying to capture a suicidal man. He was a 13-year veteran of the Bensalem Rescue Squad.

Deaths like McIntosh are the reason Wutzel created "The First Twenty."

It's a national health and wellness program for firefighters. It's online and it's mobile.

Firefighters Rob Dronitsky and Jeff Quinn have signed up.

They follow workouts laid out by the program and have also slowly changed their diet.

"A lot more fruits and vegetables and try to stay away from the processed foods," Quinn said.

They track it all on their smart phones.

Rob, so far, has lost 20 pounds.

"I feel good, I have a lot more energy, I am breathing easier, not getting tired as quickly as a I used to," Dronitsky said.

Wurtzel says the goal is to sign up as many firefighters as possible, both fulltime and volunteers, so they can help each other as they always do - this time to get in better shape and lower their risk for heart problems.

"It's not about taking one giant step, it's about taking a lot of smaller steps on the road to better health," Wurtzel said.

The program, which costs $5 a month, has drawn 300 firefighters coast-to-coast.

For more information, check out the First Twenty website.

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