The Age Factor
Battalion Chief Paul Lepore
Everyone has an opinion of age when it comes to hiring new firefighters. Some people feel that a younger candidate has a better chance of getting hired because, after all, the fire departments are looking to hire a candidate for the next 30 years.
If a fire department hires a 21 or 22 year old, the department can train the recruit before he or she has a chance to develop “bad” habits. Furthermore, since the agency wants to get the most money for its training dollars, hiring a firefighter at a young age ensures that it will get at least 30 years of service out of him or her.
Younger candidates generally have fewer personal and financial obligations, and are more likely to have the free time to pursue relevant education and training prior to being hired. This is highly prized by many departments, as they do not have to pay for it. Younger firefighters are generally in better physical condition. They will do well in high impact areas of the community where the job is very physically demanding. In addition, they will usually work out in the station, which can be contagious to the other firefighters. Ultimately they may be the cause of the entire shift working out together.
Younger firefighters are often very concerned about eating properly and are more educated about nutrition. Quite commonly, older firefighters pay little attention to healthy eating in the fire station. A younger firefighter may educate the crew about eating turkey burgers instead of ground beef, or on the importance of taking vitamins.
Additionally, hiring younger firefighters minimizes the chances of hiring an employee with a pre-existing injury. It is true that a pre-employment medical exam will identify many of these injuries; however, with the implementation of the Americans With Disabilities Act, agencies are not failing nearly as many candidates as in years past. Since many candidates have successfully litigated and won a job, medical disqualifications have become less frequent.
The converse to these potential benefits is the fact that a younger candidate has spent the majority of his or her life at home with minimal responsibilities. Predictably, this will not be well received in a fire station. This is especially true since it is expected that the rookie is the one who makes sure all of the little things are done around the station. These are the same things that mom did at home for him or her.
Another factor when dealing with “younger” candidates is the fact that they are going to be living and working with mature (relatively speaking) adults. It can be difficult for a younger person to fit in with a group of older adults, especially firefighters.