When Euless firefighters and police officers took on the challenge to work on healthier lifestyles, it meant losing weight, eating more vegetables and exercising more.
Their hard work paid off as the fire and police departments won the Lifestyle Improvement Challenge sponsored by Baylor Scott & White Medical Center - Grapevine.
And the two departments will share a $25,000 grant to purchase equipment to help keep the first responders healthy.
Ken Rawlinson, public education coordinator and fire investigator, said firefighters were asked to fill out a questionnaire where they could list their goals, such as losing weight or gaining muscle, when they began the challenge.
“It was exciting for us to win,” he said. “The $25,000 grand prize was a sweet jackpot.”
Rawlinson said the challenge lasted for six months, from January to in June.
Firefighters decided to have healthier meals during their shifts, and they planted vegetable gardens on vacant land behind the fire stations. They planted squash, green beans, onions and greens, which were served at meals when firefighters were on duty, Rawlinson said.
Everyone was proud of the first harvest.
We thought at first, ‘Were we going to get anything out of this?’ ” he said. “Not all of us are farmers.”
The fire and police departments also brought in a dietitian to help them learn about better food choices.
The first responders also wanted to get the community involved with changing their lifestyles, and they organized a fun run last summer emphasizing the importance of fitness and exercise.
“We had a good time. We found that we lost over 240 pounds” collectively, Rawlinson said.
The two departments also created a Facebook page to keep track of their progress.
As part of the challenge, the Fire Department started a cancer prevention program focused on helping firefighters avoid exposure to carcinogens such as smoke and fumes while fighting fires.
Every firefighter has an extra mask to wear to keep harmful substances away from their faces, and each firefighter also has an extra set of bunker gear to keep contaminants away from their bodies.
Assistant Fire Chief Jeff Morris said he is considering using some of the grant funding to buy a “cycle sauna” that will help get rid of toxins as firefighters are exposed to smoke and chemicals.
“Their pores are open, and the harmful substances can get into their bodies,” he said.
The cycle sauna releases infrared rays while a firefighter rides an exercise bike. The infrared rays accelerate sweating.