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  1. #1
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    Default Why do we celebrate elderly firefighters????

    There it is. Another firehouse.com article celebrating a 70 year-old female firefighter from N.C. Folks, we need to get a clue. The USFA, Bureau of Justice Assistance, NIOSH, and many other organizations are spending countless tax dollars to combat line-of-duty deaths (most of which are heart attacks) only to have us hold up the elderly as admirable "dedicated firefighters". I cannot help but be appalled! I serve as our departments Line-of-Duty-Death coordinator (fortunately, we haven't had one) and lecture on the subject across the state. The thought of a senior citizen, that is someone over 65, responding to fire calls and "humping hose" sets us back decades in our battle to reduce LODD's. I admire their commitment, but believe they could serve their community in a more suitable capacity. Some may think this sounds like age discrimination. In reality, it is common sense. The average age last year of a LODD victim was 54 years old. Take away the "elderly" volunteers and the age drops to 39. This tells us two things; First of all, we need to get our younger firefighters in better shape. Second, we all need to know when it's time to retire and leave the business to those more suited for this type of work. Your life, and perhaps mine, may depend on it.


  2. #2
    MembersZone Subscriber ftfdverbenec770's Avatar
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    i can understand what you are saying in that, a older firefighter really has no place being on the end of a hose line or making an interior attack. but dont over look what a older person can bring to a dept. they dont always have to be the ones doing the grunt work. most times the older people on a dept have been on for some time and they have put in their time. when we have a fire or something like such, let them run the pump, let them be the runners for the officers, let them be the ones that are filling out the reports.

    on our vollie dept, we have a few older people on out dept and now most of them are just truck drivers, pump opps, etc. we let the "kids" as they like to call them, do the attack, work with the jaws, etc.

    not only with them being able to fill a position on a call, they also have a number of years of experience and they have seen many things in their time. just cause they are old doesnt mean they are dumb.

  3. #3
    MembersZone Subscriber ROOKIELZ's Avatar
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    Just my .02 but I'd rather have a smart old dog then a dumb young pup. I doubt I'll be "humping hose" when I'm seventy, but if I can outwork a young'un at 70; what does that say about the young'un?

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    "just" driving the truck? "Just" letting someone with diminished reflexes, strength and ability operate an 18-ton piece of equipment through crowded streets?

    I have to agree with grdragonslayer 100%. In an age where the fire service should be striving to reduce LODD, it is time to set a maximum age, I would suggest 60, for participating in fireground activities.

    Of course, younger people die of cardiac related events. Of course, some old guys could kick a young guys butt. But the percentage goes way up when you pass 60.

  5. #5
    Forum Member martinm's Avatar
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    In the UK the maximum age (at this time), for "front line" firefighters is 55. I say at this time as due to the pensions fiasco over here, that may be upped to maybe 60+ in order that people have enough to live on when they retire.
    United Kingdom branch, IACOJ.

  6. #6
    Forum Member firemanpat29's Avatar
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    paging HWoods HWoods to the forums please

  7. #7
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    I do agree that 70 is quite old for normal fireground activities but how many of older firefighters are still alive today because of the constant excercise this lifestyle demands.

    Coming from an area that depends completely on volunteers I know how hard it is to keep 25 qualified firefighters on staff. I believe the older firefghters are a value to the department but I think they need to be monitored a little more for their health, fitness and their ability to operate apparatus.

    When I get that age if I am still active and love doing it, if I go humping hose then I went doing what I love to do.....

  8. #8
    Forum Member DennisTheMenace's Avatar
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    Originally posted by ROOKIELZ
    Just my .02 but I'd rather have a smart old dog then a dumb young pup. I doubt I'll be "humping hose" when I'm seventy, but if I can outwork a young'un at 70; what does that say about the young'un?
    We need both, the smart old dogs need to show their wisdom and leave the haevy work to the young muscles that they should be sharing their knowledge with.
    Be for Peace, but don't be for the Enemy!
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    Quote Originally Posted by nyckftbl View Post
    LOL....dont you people have anything else to do besides b*tch about our b*tching?

  9. #9
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    I agree 100%. We spend hundreds of hours of training on RIT, self extracation from a trap, large building searches, and other rarely if ever used techniques. Then completely ignore health and fitness. This is a trend that is changing, thank God, but when almost 60% of our LODD deaths are cardiac related we might need to shift our focus some and setting a 70 year old out there as a good thing is apalling.

    Don't get me wrong I believe we need all the specialized training we can get but we need to focus more on what is more likely to kill our firefighters.

    A 70 year old has a place on the department as a staff position only not out humping anything.

    Rigin

  10. #10
    Forum Member Rescue101's Avatar
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    I happen to know a 70+ gentleman nearby that will pass a group of "pups"on a mtn woods fire.He is in top physical shape and can do more work on less air than many half his age.So I guess I don't agree 100%. Slayer you must be one of the fortunate few to have sufficent staff to do everything you have to do.We utilize quite a few 50-60 year olds to manage the "pool",set up draft sites,Logistics co-ordination and other necessary functions.Properly managed I think you can serve into your 60's with no long term effects. T.C.

  11. #11
    MembersZone Subscriber ChiefReason's Avatar
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    Basing your opinion solely on the age of the firefighter is not a prudent thing to do.
    If a person can pass the required testing to get on or remain on a fire department, then that's how it should be.
    Are you saying that it is more acceptable to have someone 39 years old going down due to a heart attack than it is for someone who is 70?
    My decision would be based on ability and physical fitness. Age would be one of the last things I would consider; if I considered it at all.
    Anyone else notice that the size of bunker gear seems to be getting bigger? And not because we are getting candidates that are more muscular?
    Thought so.
    CR
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  12. #12
    MembersZone Subscriber StLRes2cue's Avatar
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    ..........
    Last edited by StLRes2cue; 11-16-2005 at 10:29 PM.

  13. #13
    MembersZone Subscriber mcaldwell's Avatar
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    I'm with CR on this one. We are a small volley dept and have a few people that wouldn't pass muster in the city, but we cannot afford to send them packing, so we make allowances. In the end, it comes down to your fitness evaluations, fit tests, and skills competency to determine which roles you can and can't fill on the fireground.

    And as for the specific age limit. In our mtn resort environment that values physical fitness, here are a few examples of "elderly" locals.

    The most senior member of the mountains Ski Patrol department just turned 70. He runs a ranch in the summer time, and assists the local SAR team as much as he can. And while his abilities are certainly diminished from when he was 30, he can out ski, climb, rope, or work 2/3 of that very capable team.

    My neighbor, the father of our Captain and Training Officer, is mid-sixties. He climbs 4000' peaks to backcountry ski at least twice a week. He kayaks, and mtn bikes. In the summer, he works on a foresty FF crew. A few years years ago, he biked across Russia.

    My uncle also just turned 70. Last summer to celebrate, he biked across Canada. He regularly takes 200-400km bike rides just to visit family or see something new. He still hits the gym at least three times a week.

    In some societies, the "elder's" are revered. In our's they are shunned. In any of their environments (i.e where they are trained and comfortable), I would happily put my life in the hands of the folks I just mentioned. I can't do today (at 33), some of the things that they are doing at 70.

    Whether your 25, or 65. A volunteer firefighter, a mountain rescue technician or a long-distance biker. Know your limits, and know when to quit. Frequent testing in a safe environment helps you determine what those limits and restrictions are.
    Never argue with an Idiot. They drag you down to their level, and then beat you with experience!

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  14. #14
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    Well... I def. cant agree with the person who posted this. I can see where you are coming from but as many of the people above me have already mentioned..........
    Frequent testing would allow the older memeber to do what they go to do if there fit and certified... You cant tell me they wont be helpful when ur short on personal during the day or something. Have them run a pump, drive a truck (if certified to), EMT or MRT?? Accountability, rehabilitaion, and Fire Police... Some of those jobs need to be done when your short on man power and they shouldnt be cut short of doing so. Also what CheifReason said i agree with completly. Think about all this...
    Rescue
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  15. #15
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    I would agree and disagree in the same breath with the original post. See, the way things are in my vol dept is that most people join when they are in there mid 20's (some earlier, which is even better) after they have moved in and settled in the community with there established families. Those that join at that time can expect to see about 15 to 20 years (maybe less depending on "turmoil") before they are in an officer's position. Which places most of our officers in the 40-45 range. By the time these people reach officer status there days of physically humpin hose are almost over. Yet they bring experience to the table that they learned in there 15-20 years as a line firefighter. Anyone who joins in there 30s or 40s usually drops soon after because they have already established a family and the new burden of being a volunteer firefighter is too much for there family to adapt to. In a sense, we usually don't see an age problem. Yes, we have older gentlemen on our department, but they usually fill command positions or have singled themselves out as a "light duty specialist" if you will.

  16. #16
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    Actually, even though I posted this, I agree with many of you! There is(in my opinion) nothing wrong with an older member running the pump, performing the duties of Fire Police (although a LODD notice for an 80 year-old Fire Police official was posted here last fall), and the like. The problem I have is, as in the latest case of the gal from N.C., the "elders" still performing physically demanding fireground activities like pulling lines and the like. Utilize their knowledge? Sure! Utilize their skills and experience in training? Absolutely!! Just stop killing them on the fireground. In addition, thanks to all who posted replies...you have provided great insight! You're right, I am fortunate to belong to a large department serving a community of a quarter-million people. I rarely "want" for additional help. Perhaps if I were in your shoes I would think differently about this.

  17. #17
    Forum Member snowball's Avatar
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    At our dept the age cap is 60 for the line, staff has no rule on it but nobody has gone past 59 before retirement. 3%@50 rules!

  18. #18
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    grdragonslayer,

    You're right. This is a great forum to belong to. The majority of the members are here to help with any questions and they won't pull any punches on opinion issues.

  19. #19
    Forum Member fftrainer's Avatar
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    I have a few guys that are 70+ and wouldn't think about not having them around. Now don't get me wrong, they are not interior guys. They are SCBA certified (Fit Test, etc) in case there is a dire emergency (entrapment or something) and they are the only one there, but other than that they do other fireground duties to free up the younger guys. These are the guys I have assigned to making sure guys get to rehab, they are the guys changing scba cylinders making sure refreshments get taken care of a drawn out events, and so on. While I understand about skewing the LODD numbers, but so are the young guys wearing 4x bunkers. Until we address that I don't think we can gig a guy just on his age. Heck one of my 70+ guys went to his physician and eye doctor and gets written documentation each year that he is cleared to participate.

  20. #20
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    Originally posted by ChiefReason
    Basing your opinion solely on the age of the firefighter is not a prudent thing to do.
    If a person can pass the required testing to get on or remain on a fire department, then that's how it should be.
    My decision would be based on ability and physical fitness.
    CR
    You make a very good point, although you may be missing the broader implications of it. You say as long as a ff can pass the required testing they can stay, regardless of age. I agree.
    The problem is, how many depts nationally have MANDATORY annual fitness testing for all members? How many ff's have to run through a "combat challenge" type test every year? Many smaller depts don't even have medical screenings done once the member is hired.
    How many guys on the job do you know that have a "bad back" or "bad knee", or are overweight? People that realistically could not do every aspect of the job in an emergent situation, or would put such a strain on their body that a tragic event (ie MI or CVA) is inevitable?
    Until we as a group acknowledge that annual testing is necessary to keep ff's safe, we will continue to see 70 year olds on the job. The unions fight this tooth and nail, because they know that many members are NOT up to passing a test every year. Do they really care about ff safety, or are they more concerned about keeping jobs (yes I'm an active IAFF member).
    Mandatory annual fitness testing is long overdue. It could be done similarly to the military- minimums that are based on age. It could be "grandfathered" in so that ff's currently on the job would be protected.
    There is no excuse for having ff's on the job that are not up to the rigors involved.
    "Don't just do something, stand there!!!"

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