The age at which you should stop fighting fires is no different.
If you are a career firefighter, you likely argue that extending the mandatory retirement age puts both firefighters and the public at risk. A British firefighting union made the accompanying video as a challenge to their government's push for a higher retirement age.
The video is quite blunt in its claim that firefighters in their 60s are not as capable of those in their 50s.
If you are a volunteer firefighter, your argument is probably the opposite. Your argument is likely to be that you can still perform the job and that your department needs your experience — as it struggles to attract and keep new volunteers.
The volunteer fire service is rife with firefighters older than 60 proving this argument.
Two things are certain: Our bodies and minds decline with age, and the rate of that decline is driven by a mix of genetics and lifestyle choices.
It would be foolish to speculate whether or not age played a role in the Thanksgiving weekend crash between a state trooper and a volunteer fire truck. The circumstances may have been such that it would have occurred regardless of who was driving either vehicle.
Yet the driver of the apparatus was 74 (I wish him a full and speedy recovery). And we'd be foolish not to look at the issue of age.
Hopefully, we will never get to the point where career firefighters are still on the job at 74. But it is something we can expect to see more and more in volunteer departments as our population lives longer and remains active later in life.
A sweeping policy setting age limits for all or some firefighting activities is not practical given the level of need and difference in how people age.
An approach of frequent evaluation might be one solution. Many states require older adults to renew their driver's licenses more frequently. And this may be a good model for firefighting activities, be they apparatus driving or interior attack.
The problem with this type of evaluation tool, especially if it is a department-originated policy, is that those who should be evaluated are likely those running the department — quite possibly the chief.
It will take a strong leader to argue for change that is in the best interest of the department and community, but perhaps not in his or her perceived best interest.
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Marc BlaineMonday, December 02, 2013 2:16:54 PMLet's be honest with each other. We'd all like to think that as we've aged, our increased experience level counters our decreasing physical abilities. Unfortunately, the truth is that there's a tipping point in our lives where the mind start's writing IOU's the body can't cash- whether it's firefighting, alpine skiing or any other endeavour that requires physical ability and skill. This was brought home in a very jarring fashion at a recent MCI drill where I found that while wearing full turnout gear and an SCBA I really didn't have the gusto it took to put a 125 lb high school student over my shoulder and carry her all the way to the exit. At 59 years old, you really don't want to hear the dreaded "maybe I'm getting too old for this s**t", but there it was. As an officer with 40 years in the job I believe I have a lot to contribute to the young guys coming up. However, never do I want to put my team in a position where I can't hold up my end and become a liability. Dirty Harry said "A man's got to know his limitations" and Brunacini said "Egos eat brains" Two good things to remember.
Larry PerryTuesday, December 03, 2013 6:56:29 AMThe author of this article makes several valid points. Aging does diminish a person's physical and mental abilities to some degree, and over the long run, the person is no longer able to function at an acceptable level as an effective firefighter for many of the tasks that must be performed as a front line firefighter. Of course it will not be the same for every person. I have trained many firefighters who at age 30 could not hold a candle to a 60 year old who knew the job and did it reliably, safely and in every way was the heart and soul of his or her team. My point here is that you can't make sweeping statements about firefighters based solely on age. The next point is critical to the survival of the rural volunteer fire services in the majority of small communities. The talent pool is shallow. In small communities we are witnessing a big and emerging problem with recruiting and retention. In earlier years, many younger citizens looked upon the volunteer fire department as a great opportunity to be part of something noble, exciting, and rewarding. As a fire chief, I can tell you in my district, that is not so much the situation today. Many younger people are asking why should offer all that time and energy for little or no income. What I am saying here is something that those of us involved in the volunteer services have known for years, that older firefighter that some are willing to dismiss, based on age, is the last of that generation, and there is nobody in the wings. Before we consider ways to weed out aging firefighters, we should figure out who is going to replace them. Bottom line here is some older firefighters on the roster, or no fire service in the smaller communities or NO fire service. It always amazes me how some just don't get it.
Tim RichmondTuesday, December 03, 2013 10:33:31 AMWhile I agree that one USUALLY does not gain physical prowess as one ages, many of us have honed our technique, and now "work smarter" rather than harder. WE have learned to let the tool do the work, and not rely on the brute force we had in our younger years. Like the old bull and the young bull looking at a herd of cows in the next field with romance on their minds, we know when to "walk down, and get 'em all". We also tend to work safely, because we KNOW our limitations. Hopefully, too, we have gotten to the point that our accumulated skills can be put to use in training, or other ancillary positions before we are written off by the young guns.
I'm reminded of the country song that says "I'm not as good as I once was, but I'm as good once, as I ever was."
William RichmondTuesday, December 03, 2013 6:04:50 PMI guess when you can't slide down the pole! When you graduated from the academy you were 45!! I believe that makes you the oldest in the state! Congrats!!!