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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.
Evan Davidson Evan Davidson Monday, May 26, 2014 5:28:07 AM When should a firefighter retire? When their hose becomes a dribble?
Luis Rolon Luis Rolon Monday, May 26, 2014 5:28:28 AM My view is when you cant do your job thats when you Should go ,when your the type that hides his truck so its not used And sure if your seventy you shpuldnt be on this job
Salvador Escarre Oliver Salvador Escarre Oliver Monday, May 26, 2014 5:33:38 AM In Spain when government says! In my case at 59 years old. Rest of Western Europe at 55.
Kenny K. King Kenny K. King Monday, May 26, 2014 6:01:35 AM No.2, No.7
Curtis St John Curtis St John Monday, May 26, 2014 6:04:54 AM When my wife said it was time to move closer to the grand kids!
John Munz John Munz Monday, May 26, 2014 6:42:49 AM When it is time.....
Kevin Self Kevin Self Monday, May 26, 2014 6:48:07 AM Number 6 for me. But, we had an unexpected blessing come into our lives and I knew I would have to work a little longer. Changing careers made the most sense. At 46 years old, I retired with 27 years on the job. I knew I couldn't work another 18 years and the older I got the more difficult it would be to find another job. It's all about your personal situation. Do I miss it? Absolutely! Firefighting isn't a job, it's a lifestyle. The best life a person could have.
John Tipton Jr. John Tipton Jr. Monday, May 26, 2014 7:04:33 AM Before you start dragging your coworkers down because you hate to come to work. Don't want to get on the rig and go to a call and you gripe at everyone on the rig all the way to and then back from the alarm, because you are sick of it.
Kimberly McKnight Wallace Kimberly McKnight Wallace Monday, May 26, 2014 7:06:19 AM Smart and beautiful wife ya go there, Curt!!!
Keith Scogin Keith Scogin Monday, May 26, 2014 7:12:34 AM Ours is age 55 to go without penelty. 27 in now. 6 years and 2 days to go. :)
Charlies Man Cory Sartin Charlies Man Cory Sartin Monday, May 26, 2014 7:44:56 AM Lol these are all good 3 months ago me and my wife went to my therapist and I got diagnosed with PTSD but I just can't even imagine hanging my turnouts up I got in this field because I have a deep passion for saving life and property and I enjoy it like every other fire fighter
Charlies Man Cory Sartin Charlies Man Cory Sartin Monday, May 26, 2014 7:48:18 AM And all the one post I read the ones retiring I just want to say thank u for ur long years of dedicated service we all must retire ne point and time and hope it's not retiring to soon from line of duty deaths I appreciate every single one of u brothers and sisters that's also y me and my wife joined the fire service for this exact reason also brotherhood and sisterhood it's truely like a second family
Stan Mettinger Jr. Stan Mettinger Jr. Monday, May 26, 2014 8:38:49 AM I love my job and often wonder if I should retire. Some days it seems that way and other days it seems as if I want to press on. For all of us the decision to retire is most often based on being able to comfortably survive with the pension we are awarded. Some of us make bad decisions and have to start over and some of us seem to go forever. I started as a volunteer in 1971 and did so in my hometown department until 1999 then moved to Florida where I volunteered again for two more years 2001-2003. Entered the career service in 1979 and made some bad decisions in later years, leaving the state of Virginia retirement system with 20 yrs but failed to get the hazardous duty supplement on a technicality. In 2002 after 2 yrs in Florida I went back to work for my current department and I am now the #2 guy and serve as a District Chief. Have just over 11 yrs there and can retire due to age, but just can not afford it... But...355 days out of 365 (estimating) I love my job and thank the Lord and other than the general aches and pains associated with being 56 I am healthy!
Dave Gandy Dave Gandy Monday, May 26, 2014 9:19:23 AM I retired after 22 yrs. for several reasons. But I missed it and still do some. I can't go back. Too much has happened to me. But to all of you, now and in the future, have something to do. Another job or a hobby you live. Without something to do, retirement is not something you will enjoy. I learned the hard way, and many others have as well. Do I enjoy retirement now? You betcha!
Greg Scott Greg Scott Monday, May 26, 2014 10:07:11 AM In my opinion, our job brings with it inherent risks, both physical and mental. When we reach the point in our careers that time and nature has taken too much from us to be effective any more, we need to go. Let's not forget that our duty lies in those we serve and we owe them our best.
Tommy Hanes Tommy Hanes Monday, May 26, 2014 5:50:31 PM You just know when it's time. After having a couple of structure fires on one shift, and it takes two days to get over it. Also, when there is a big generation gap between you and the rest of the crew. Also, when you are used to being first or second in the door. And all of a sudden you are second or third in the door no matter how hard you try. It's time!
Heather Bouwhuis McNabb Heather Bouwhuis McNabb Monday, May 26, 2014 7:34:58 PM I am not a firefighter but, I am married to one!! I say you retire when you are ready or when your body can no longer do the job!! I would really like to know that those that are with my husband are capable to do the job and keep everyone coming home!!
Johnny Murdock Johnny Murdock Monday, May 26, 2014 8:21:40 PM Did 35 years. Retired when it was still fun & my mind was still sharp. Stopped while the memories, except for government BS, were still good. While I transitioned to a volunteer role with an small FD (Bat chief), I am enjoying life away from the job. Loved it, but there is a time to move on and let others take the reins.
Ray J Freitas Ray J Freitas Tuesday, May 27, 2014 9:09:26 AM We die too young, don't stay too long or that pension will go to your grieving spouse...
Gerald Anthony Bickmore Gerald Anthony Bickmore Tuesday, May 27, 2014 10:20:52 AM I retired at the age of 46. 20 years of awesome service with SLC Fire dept. I don't regret a day of it, My life has only been better and I am still young enough to do a lot before it is time to go….I live in Nicaragua where my pension works well…..
Raymond Haring Raymond Haring Monday, June 02, 2014 4:11:12 PM Curtis, I see from your FaceBook you are still thinking about it.
Carol McVicker Carol McVicker Monday, June 02, 2014 4:12:45 PM How are you Raymond Haring!..<3
Raymond Haring Raymond Haring Monday, June 02, 2014 4:17:49 PM Carol McVicker Working just as hard as I did before I retired from the Fire Service.
Darrell Pitchford Darrell Pitchford Wednesday, June 04, 2014 8:06:40 PM After 55 years as a volunteer,26 of those years a chief I turned it over to the younger men. I miss it ,but I still attend the meetings and attend the trustee meeting.
TomandAmber Robertson TomandAmber Robertson Wednesday, June 18, 2014 1:19:55 PM Dave we had some real fun! I am so proud of the JFD and how they handled the tornado, the guys really stepped up. I am just not sure the young guys see it the same we did, have fun and then make it a job. Cold night, hot nights so many memories. My only worry is that our pension will fall apart because there are some people on the board now that have not got one clue of how things are to run and they control our pension. We took serving on the board as a call to help all of the firefighters and police, but some of the reps now are so slow that they just believe what they are told by city officials and we all know what that is!
Olusegun Oladunni Olusegun Oladunni Friday, August 01, 2014 5:06:08 AM Can a Fire fighter ever retire, because no matter what even when he leave to fight, one day action will always required him to continue the fight

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