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The Question
by FR1 Community

When should a firefighter retire?

It is a very personal question with no easy answer, as our top responses show

By FireRescue1 Staff

For new recruits, the notion of retirement can seem an impossible distance. But understanding when it is time to go can offer perspective on a new career. To that end, we put the question of when should a firefighter retire to our readers. Here are the 10 most interesting responses.

"When you start getting in the way of new ideas and are not open to any new types of training because you think you have done it all." — Jody Garrard

"I'm so burnt out now. If it wasn't for health insurance, I would have retired seven weeks ago." — Theresa Kunerth Kudla Ikels

"When you're dead." — Stephen Wilkinson

"When PTSD takes hold and you feel sick and shake at the thought of turning up for your shift." — Tina Webster

"When the income from your 'side' business exceeds the income of your full-time job." — Jeffrey S. Heckman

"Just make sure you are really ready. I retired too soon, big mistake." — Randy Meade

"When it's not fun anymore." — Walter Jones

"When you're receiving monthly checks you can live off of so that someone else that needs a paying job can have yours." — Goldie McQuillan

"When my wife tells me I can, lol." — Roberto Ignacio Campos Jr.

"The job seems more difficult, your thinking becomes slower, decisions become more difficult to make, and you don't get as excited as you once did. Then it's time to walk out of that room, into the next, continue your life and look back on a good career." — Ken Henke

About the author

"The Question" section brings together user-generated articles from our Facebook page based on questions we pose to our followers, as well as some of the best content we find on Quora, a question-and-answer website created, edited and organized by its community of users who are often experts in their field. The site aggregates questions and answers for a range of topics, including public safety. The questions and answers featured here on FR1 are posted directly from Quora, and the views and opinions expressed do not necessarily reflect those of FR1.

The comments below are member-generated and do not necessarily reflect the opinions of or its staff. If you cannot see comments, try disabling privacy and ad blocking plugins in your browser. All comments must comply with our Member Commenting Policy.
Davey Dee Davey Dee Tuesday, February 04, 2014 11:06:52 AM Firefighting has definetly evolved over the last 30 years and we are entering a new age of technolgy and communication. As a firefighter we have learned to adapt to change and make quick decisions using our experience and knowledge of each situation that we face in an ever changing world around us. As we age, and the mind and body do age, believe me, we must come to terms with ourselves that not all of us are as agile and clear minded as we once were. It is a hard fact of life, but there is a new chapter of this life that we need to experience also. Retirement doesn't nessecarily mean that " the ole mule ain't what she used to be", it is just a new freedom and excitement of experiencing new friends and old alike. We want to hold on as long as we can and relive the good ole glory days forever, but, there is a reason that we won't be able to and that is why retirement is a good thing for us. Just remember, plan ahead, live everyday like its your last one with your crews and make sure you kiss your loved ones every day before leaving for shift.
Jim Dedmon Jim Dedmon Tuesday, February 04, 2014 11:28:02 AM I think for each individual there are circumstances or reasons. If you have you're health, wish to embark on a new career, or find yourself having difficulty respecting your admin., then it may be time to go. No future pay raises? No chance for promotion? Those are other considerations as well. I know I can still do the job with the best of them, but why continue to risk a future that is healthy, for another moment as a firefighter and possible injury? Some say "you'll know when its time". Maybe, or maybe you'll realize when it makes more personal sense. Once you have this occupation in your blood, you never really retire, you just don't get on the truck.
Robert Avsec Robert Avsec Tuesday, February 04, 2014 8:08:40 PM Good question. I'd like to offer a different perspective. I planned my retirement when I reach the mid-way point of my career with the Chesterfield. Actually, I was preparing long before that as I took advantage of tuition reimbursement from our County to complete both my BS and MS. I took advantage of training opportunities, particularly those that led to instructor certifications. The latter helped me land a spot as a Contract Instructor for the National Fire Academy where I had the opportunity to teach 50+ times both on and off campus doing Direct Deliveries. Within my department, I served a cumulative 9+ years in various staff assignments (Emergency Communications, EMS, Training & Safety) that gave me a 360 degree perspective on my department and it's role in the community. So by the time I reached that mid-point--13 years--I had a pretty good idea that I could do other things--I had options--and I wanted to do other things. I retired on the day I was eligible and can honestly say that I LOVED my job as much on that day as I did 26 years earlier when I was a probie. In the 6+ years since then I've been: an Operations and Planning consultant for a private sector EMS agency; a staff instructor at the Georgia Fire Academy; a contractor working for the Army's Fire and Emergency Services Chief; and now a freelance writer creating web content for What's the take away? I think the earlier a new firefighter starts preparing himself or herself for a career beyond firefighting--creating options--the more fulfilling their fire service career will be. Another thing to consider: your firefighting career can be cut short by disease or injury well before your retirement eligibility date. Everyone should have a Plan B. Your can read the story of one such firefighter, Robin Lawson, on my blog, Talking "Shop" 4 Fire and EMS,
Robin Wallenfang Lawson Robin Wallenfang Lawson Tuesday, February 04, 2014 10:26:35 PM I couldn't agree more on preparing, and creating options! Also have a plan B, C etc! Your credentials and achievements are one to aspire to Robert! Where do you get all your energy ! Lol. Take good care :0)
John Lefler Sr. John Lefler Sr. Thursday, February 06, 2014 2:10:25 PM I have been a volunteer for over 43 yrs. I retired from my regular job in fire protection a year ago. I take our ladder truck out for day time fires. At night if I miss the ladder I take the utility truck. I usually takeover the ladder so the younger guy can go in. I do keep scba certified I do overhaul ,drag lines whatever has to be done. I feel it a lot more than I when I was young. I still teach at our county fire academy. I still climb ladders ,show students how to climb properly,how use scba properly . As long as I can still be useful I will be there.
Paul Schewene Paul Schewene Sunday, February 09, 2014 11:46:47 AM "Once you have this occupation in your blood, you never really retire, you just don't get on the truck." Exactly Jim... EXACTLY... that sums it up right there. All we gotta decide is... when we're going to hang that gear on the wall and watch the truck go without us.
Jim Campbell Jim Campbell Sunday, February 09, 2014 12:08:45 PM After 35 years on the job a would say #7 or #9 are right
Dick Nichols Dick Nichols Sunday, February 09, 2014 12:27:47 PM when I felt I was not as capable as I had been, younger fellas would do stuff for me that made me wonder if I could not do it anymore, also I wanted to leave not hating the job or the people I worked with I had seen too many before me leave with hard feelings .
Richard Koleber Richard Koleber Sunday, February 09, 2014 1:12:15 PM John, as a volunteer, do we ever retire? Be safe
David M. Barlow David M. Barlow Sunday, February 09, 2014 4:34:32 PM Great perspective John Lefler Sr. I am at the 39 year mark. I am serving as the Chief of the Concord High School Fire Academy. All of my instruction is for State Certification. I am still active as a Volunteer Firefighter.
John Cross John Cross Sunday, February 09, 2014 5:27:51 PM The #1 killer of a firefighter is a heart attack, so if and or when health is becoming a factor then is the most obvious time to retire. Next time to retire is when your savings and investment goals are me, enjoy it while you still can.
Michael Lamphere Michael Lamphere Sunday, February 09, 2014 6:18:43 PM I have 32 years as a volunteer firefighter and thought about retiring before but I have have this my blood too. It would very difficult for me to hear the tones and stand back and watch the truck go out without me on it.
Norm Duffy Norm Duffy Sunday, February 09, 2014 6:36:39 PM Everyone has his/hers own agenda you'll know when its to!eI retired after Thirty Yes As a full time Volunteer!I say that because you always have your pager 24/7/365!
Scott Huchting Scott Huchting Sunday, February 09, 2014 7:16:58 PM I have 21 years on as a full time paid F.F. I'll know its time to go after the first shift I don't get a huge smile on my face knowing I'm the luckiest man on earth.
Dinah Christina Palagi Dinah Christina Palagi Sunday, February 09, 2014 7:21:38 PM amen to that! very few of us adore and love our job! good for you scott
Mark Burnam Mark Burnam Sunday, February 09, 2014 10:48:08 PM When your DROP termination date comes...(retire from that City/county at least)
Drew Causey Drew Causey Monday, February 10, 2014 5:34:56 PM my hat is off SIR!!!!!!!!!
Larry McCray Sr. Larry McCray Sr. Monday, February 10, 2014 6:30:26 PM I have 43 years as a fire fighter. 30 as a vol. and I'm working on14 full time. This year is my last. You know it's time when you're not leading the pack you're following behind. I love what I do but it's time.
Pike Guy Pike Guy Wednesday, February 12, 2014 9:50:17 AM When old ideas, tactics or strategies that were obsolete 25 years ago are recycled as new ideas by new firefighter's with no experience except with a phone or computer.

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