TWIN FALLS • After completing five years of pack tests, Phil Leguineche has finally perfected his own version of a “duck walk.”

“You keep your knees low and you just kind of waddle,” he said. “You look like a duck.”

Leguineche was one of 90 other Bureau of Land Management firefighters required to complete three miles in less than 45 minute while wearing a 45-pound pack strapped to their body.

The BLM hosts the fitness test every year right before the beginning of fire season. For new recruits, completing the test gives them the clearance to head to basic fire school, which starts next week.

This year, the BLM Twin Falls District Fire and Aviation Program has more than 40 new recruits, said Chris Anthony, a BLM system fire operations supervisor.

“New hires start today; Returners will move on to advanced training,” he said.

Since fire crews aren’t allowed to run the course, Leguineche said he had to come up with a way to keep pain in his knees and lower back at a minimum but also maintain a fast pace. This year, he completed the course in a little more than 35 minutes.

“I’m tired,” he said, just seconds after crossing the finish line. “But I think I got a decent time.”

Firefighter Connor Cook said even though he’s completed the test three times, he still gets nervous right before the pack test begins.

“It’s one those of things that just has to get done,” he said. “It’s kind of a necessary evil.”

However, Cook said he gets through the test knowing that it’s helping him get one step closer to his goal.

“I want to be a city firefighter, this helps get me the experience I need before I can get there,” he said.

On Tuesday, there were three groups of crew members that took turns walking the course at the College of Southern Idaho. While waiting for the first group to finish, firefighters cheered on fellow colleagues and swapped tips on how to complete in time.

“No one really likes to be the third team,” said Kyli Gough, a local spokeswoman for the BLM. “The packs get pretty sweaty with two other people using it before you.”

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