How to Perform the Fireman’s Carry

by Brett & Kate McKay on March 29, 2011 · 24 comments

in Manly Skills, Survival

So you’ve built the strength to carry someone to safety…but do you know how to do it? Every man should know how to perform what is called the “fireman’s carry.” It’s an effective way to distribute someone’s weight, allowing you to haul them over long distances with minimal strain. Here’s how it’s done:

1. Raise the victim to a standing position. This is no easy task if they’re dead to the world. Start by rolling them on their stomach and kneel by their head. Stick your arms under their armpits and around their back. Raise the victim to his feet. Lift with your legs, not with your back.

2. Shift your weight to your right leg and stick it between the victim’s legs. Grab the victim’s right hand with your left, and drape it over your shoulder. With your head under the victim’s right armpit, wrap your arm around the back of his right knee. Squat down and position his body on your shoulders. Try to equally distribute his body weight on each side.

3. Grab the victim’s right hand with your right hand. Your left hand is free to judo chop would-be assailants.

4. Transport your victim.

Here’s a handy diagram:


{ 24 comments… read them below or add one }

1 Charlie March 29, 2011 at 3:03 pm

Hey Guys,

We love your blog. I just shot a Zippo commercial carrying a soldier the hard way. Wish I could’ve shown the filmmakers this post when we shot it so my arms wouldn’t have been thrashed.

Watch it here: http://vimeo.com/21655836

2 Josh March 29, 2011 at 3:08 pm

This is a reiteration of what you wrote, but for those that just look at the diagrams:

In the Diagram, part “D” is a bad way to lift the person up, since you are lifting with your back. You should be in more of a ‘squat’ position (butt towards the ground) so you use the stronger quad (leg/thigh) muscles.

3 Mark Petersen March 29, 2011 at 3:13 pm

@Charlie: Nice work on the commercial. I really enjoyed that.

4 BenL March 29, 2011 at 3:55 pm

@Charlie: Awesome Commercial! Great work!

5 Greg K. March 29, 2011 at 4:51 pm

@Charlie – that is a great commercial. I love how understated it is without the use of dialog.

6 Mike March 29, 2011 at 5:30 pm

Tried to do the carry on my [lighter] girlfriend the other day.. Nigh on impossible. Any of my mates go down in combat and i’m calling them a taxi, sod that for a game of soldiers.

7 Phil March 29, 2011 at 8:44 pm

I put this up on fb too, but If the individual you are carrying is cognizant and able, have them place their “free” hand in the small of your back for stability for the both of you.

8 Andy M. March 29, 2011 at 9:29 pm

Alternatively reverse the instructions so that your left leg goes between theirs and your left hand grabs their left, so that your right hand is free to guard/access your holster.

9 Ethan March 29, 2011 at 11:25 pm

Ive found that the firemans carry is useful if the person is unconscious, but it quickly tires out your shoulders. If the person is able to, the best easiest way to carry someone is from a piggy-back position, then grab their arms in the front, as if the person was a backpack and their arms were the straps. Ive carried people for 5 miles this way with minimal trouble.

10 Dustin March 30, 2011 at 12:33 am

The survival carry is a stable of military pt occasionally.

11 Thomas March 30, 2011 at 4:37 am

I agree with Josh, it is much easier to lift the other person up, if your hips are lower than the hips of the person to be carried, especially if the person is unconscious. Anyway a great article, if only your significant would let you practise more :-)

12 Chris March 30, 2011 at 4:56 am

I learned a slightly different version of this where you straddled the person’s back, locked your hands around their chest and then walked backwards until they’re in an upright position. Then you swing around and do step C. Same idea but a little less dead-lifting.

13 Wobble March 30, 2011 at 11:05 am

Who can we practice on? If you are like many of us, you don’t have willing participants of this exercise.

14 Dave March 30, 2011 at 2:10 pm

Is the illustrated procedure any different for people who aren’t wearing bellbottoms?

15 Grey March 30, 2011 at 5:48 pm

The pictoral is an absolutely terrible way to start that lift. It’s about impossible to get someone up that way unless you very strong and even then… you’re working way too hard. (The transfer to the shoulders is correct however.)

I recommend using biomechanics to our advantage. Turn the person over on their back and stand at their shoulders. Pull them away from their feet until their knees lock. Walk the person forward using their now locked legs into a position where they are somewhat standing, then proceed with the rest of the lift. I was able to carry a 240lb guy as a 170lb weakling like this, you just need to just be smart about it.

16 Alex March 31, 2011 at 3:45 pm

Make sure to lift with your back as indicated in step D of the illustration. Perfect form!

17 caleb April 1, 2011 at 3:41 am

great post! every man should be able to execute this lift in an emergency situation. a while ago when my dad was having some health issues i i figured out (through a little trial and error) that this is pretty much the only way i can carry him without killing my back (he’s 280 lbs, im 165). yah, the initial pick up is a pain, but once he’s up there its not that bad at all. just gotta keep him balanced.

18 Nathan April 1, 2011 at 4:42 pm

Wow. Charlie that is easily one of the best commercials I have ever seen. I am going to buy a Zippo because of this. Also because I have always wanted a Zippo.

And I will definitely show my brothers how to do this lift… as well as practice it on them.

19 Matt April 3, 2011 at 10:39 pm

Brother great article and charlie fantastic ad brother

20 matthew April 7, 2011 at 12:26 pm

This is how I carry my girls to bed. They laugh the whole way. I hope they never stop asking.

21 Kevin April 9, 2011 at 4:33 pm

On the poster, it looks like the boy’s arm is between the legs but in the diagram that shows you how to carry, it looks like the right arm is around both of the legs… which one is correct?

22 Lt. Chris April 28, 2011 at 7:38 am

The way the British army taught me to do the lift was incredibly simple and much easier then hauling someone up by the armpits. Quicker too and easier when carrying a load of gear and the dead chap’s rifle as well.
1. Get them on their back, and bend their knees with their feet flat on the floor (legs like arches.) If you position them properly their legs should stay like this even if they’re all floppy.
2. Move their hands to within arms reach of you if you stand at their feet.
3. Stand ON their feet and take hold of their hands/wrists.
4. Pull and rock backwards, using your weight to pull them upright.
5. In one motion pull them upright and drop your shoulder making sure you bend at the knees, your shoulder should hit their stomach so that they bend in the middle over it just under their own weight and you can stand straight up remembering to hold in to one of their limp arms as it shows in the diagrams above.

The final two steps of this lesson in my case were:
6. Run like hell away from whatever’s just killed your erstwhile friend.
7. As in the end of every good British military lesson: Back home for tea and medals.

But using this in most situations it would be a much better idea to walk steadily and calmly to where you’re going, usually away from a hazard.

To be honest, I find this the only easy way to get a dead’un over your shoulder, hauling them up is difficult.

23 Don February 15, 2013 at 7:47 am

I agree with Lt. Chris on all points except on 1 where he says keep their knees bent. You should keep their legs straight. This will stop them from flopping to the ground and get them much higher up over your shoulder on the pull. I have used this as a firefighter for over 20 years and carried patients down ladders in this position with no problem. I also used it in the USMC for 6 years.

24 larry hensley May 31, 2013 at 5:50 am

I am retired 27 years army,was a senior drill sergeant,graduated from class 13,in 1966,ihave taught over estimated 10,000 soldiers at fort polk from 1966 t0 1969.yes, I knew the firemans carry–it was a mandatory for all basic trainees to learn and yes it works and serves well. signed by now retired first seargent larry c Hensley, retired usa. so you just drive on and do it with great pride.

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