New law drops age restriction for volunteer firefighters
The bill gives volunteers the option to join a department without a pension if they are older than 45
OKLAHOMA CITY — Thanks to a law that took effect Nov. 1, volunteer fire departments in Oklahoma will be able to recruit new volunteer firefighters over the age of 45.
EdmondSun.com reported that a new law, spearheaded by State Rep. Mike Sanders, eliminates an age limit that was put in place to address a pension problem. The new law gives volunteers the option to join without a joining the pension program.
"Basically, the law was keeping people from serving just because the state didn’t want to pay a pension for someone starting their firefighting career at 45; it just didn’t work," said Rep. Sanders. "But there were men and women who would like to serve, even if it had to be without a pension. So, this law just opens that door to them. The men and women I talked to said that they already had pensions and that they were looking to serve and didn’t need to be part of the pension system."
State Sen. AJ Griffin, who carried the bill in the Senate, said rural communities rely on volunteer firefighters.
"Our rural communities in particular rely on the service of volunteer firefighters. Not only do these courageous men and women save lives and property from fires, they are also first-responders in a host of other emergency situations, including tornadoes, flooding, and ice storms," said Sen. Griffin. "Removing this unnecessary restriction will enable more Oklahomans to serve their friends and neighbors in communities throughout our state."
Officials hope the new law will help address a nationwide decrease in the number of volunteer firefighters.