Ky. fire dept. seeks lower age restriction for firefighter recruits

Officials will hear an ordinance that would reduce the age to 20 for recruits who have earned an associate's degree in fire/rescue science technology


By Austin Ramsey
Messenger-Inquirer

OWENSBORO, Ky. — The Owensboro Fire Department is recommending lowering the age that it will consider firefighter candidates -- the latest component of a decades-old program to incentivize high school juniors and seniors to pursue fire science technology degrees.

It's been almost 20 years since area school districts first partnered with community and technical colleges on the Discover College initiative, but subsequent changes and efforts to broaden that program's scope have made it an important recruiting tool, especially for fire departments seeking young, qualified firefighter candidates.

The current minimum age for consideration at Owensboro Fire Department is 21. (Photo/OFD)
The current minimum age for consideration at Owensboro Fire Department is 21. (Photo/OFD)

OFD Chief Steve Mitchell on Monday said when his department first became involved in the program several years ago, it was always the intention to one day begin considering 20-year-old candidates who had earned the necessary prerequisites. The current minimum age for consideration at OFD is 21. All candidates must have at least an associate's degree and have achieved emergency medical technician certification.

The Owensboro City Commission on Tuesday will hear first reading of an ordinance that would reduce the age for consideration to 20 for men and women who have earned an associate's degree in fire/rescue science technology from the Kentucky Community & Technical College System.

"This is the next step in the program, essentially," Mitchell said. "We'd always planned to have this incentive for the folks who choose to pursue firefighting careers early."

According to language in the draft ordinance, many younger students graduating from Owensboro Community & Technical College have had to wait before applying to the OFD. Mitchell did say he's been somewhat disappointed by overall participation in the early fire/rescue science technology program, but he believes if the city commission passes the ordinance early next month, it could prove helpful in recruiting -- particularly as the department seeks to recruit an entirely new ladder company to serve the city's developing east side.

Written and physical exams, in addition to interviews and background checks will still be required of younger firefighter candidates. Significant training is also required.

Mitchell said the revised age consideration would not only apply to students who started their programs in high school, but it would be limited to KCTCS fire/rescue science technology graduates. Those students are certified as basic and advanced firefighters and earn the six-hour minimum EMT credit.

According to the course schedule, courses include fire prevention and suppression, technical rescue and emergency medical care.

Copyright 2018 Messenger-Inquirer

McClatchy-Tribune News Service

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