May 23--MIDDLETOWN -- The Middletown Fire Department has opened a new gym as part of a fitness program intended to improve the overall health of its firefighters.
Captain Joe's Gym includes free weights, cardio equipment and other fitness gear in about 1,100 square feet of donated space in the Salvation Army building next to the Main Street fire station.
The gym is named after Capt. Joseph Pagano, a 28-year department veteran who died after a heart attack on duty on Nov. 3, 2006.
"He was taken from us too soon, but never forgotten," Firefighter Sal Cretella said. "We hope through this program we will never have to go through such a great loss again."
Cretella and Firefighter Nick Mayo are two of the six firefighters who received personal training certifications through Peer Fitness, a program of the International Association of Firefighters.
Mayo said nearly half of all firefighter deaths in the line of duty are due to cardiac events. The gym and the emphasis on fitness are intended to ensure that the department has "fit, healthy and capable firefighters," Mayo said.
"Unfortunately, as firefighters we may be exposed to significant hazards throughout our careers," Mayo said.
The equipment for the gym arrived May 5, and certified personal trainers have been training all fire department staff on how to use it, Mayo said.
"We really want this to be just a stepping-stone in a great relationship," said Major David Champlin, divisional commander for the Salvation Army.
Champlin said the partnership between the Salvation Army and the fire department will ultimately lead to better service to the community.
"We very often underestimate the physical stress and emotional stress that goes with the job you do every day," Mayor Daniel Drew at the ribbon cutting event Thursday. "You're able to do it every day because you prepare, and we are able to prepare here with this new facility."
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