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Poll call: Readers weigh in on mandatory retirement age for firefighters

Is there such a thing as “too old to serve”?

Businessman holding black alarm clock with clockwise countdown from work to retirement.

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By FireRescue1 Staff

Deputy Chief Billy Goldfeder hit on a controversial topic in his recent article, “How old is too old in the fire service?” So, we asked FireRescue1 readers for their thoughts on the topic.

In a recent poll answered by more than 2,000 FireRescue1 readers, a majority (51%) said there should be a maximum age for active firefighters. However, 33% said there should be no age limit. And 16% responded they weren’t sure or needed more information to make a decision.

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What firefighters are saying

  • “The question really should be, “can they do the job they’re in or not,” not how old they are. I had the pleasure of working with some old hands that were able to handle the job a lot better than other younger people (than them but veteran).”
  • “It depends on the nature of your job. For instance, if you are a 60-year-old Engineer who is in good cardiovascular shape and capable of pumping and driving, then you are fit for the job. However, when your body becomes too exhausted, there are still several roles in most departments where you can pass on your experience if you would like to continue working.”
  • “’How unfit is too unfit to be in the fire department?’ – may be a better question.”
  • “As long as one is physically fit and can perform the job, that should be the deciding factor in my opinion.”
  • “Age is not a factor, ability to pass a physical exam is.”
  • “Sometimes we got to keep going because no one wants to come along to do the job.”
  • “Sad part is there are no replacements.”
  • “I am currently 62, full-time Firefighter/Paramedic in a dept of 500. I’ll let you know...”
  • “I work a civilian desk job at a city fire department. Most of our oldest employees are battalion chiefs. They respond to calls every shift but they do not “run into burning buildings”. Other people who want or need less physical exertion can work at prevention or training or dispatch. I would not want to see a mandatory retirement age under 70 for “all uniformed personnel”.
  • “No, why would there be? If the organization is being run correctly, then there’s a place for everyone. I don’t think a 70-year-old should be wearing an air pack and kicking down doors and going into IDLH environments.”
  • “Why not sharpen up hiring standards before you talk about retirements?”
  • “As long as they can pass a physical and can do the job, nope.”
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