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I often hear this question mentioned numerous times, how young is to young to be in this service? Where do we drawl a line and say their not old enough?

Having come from a rural department in Kentucky I understand the need for working hands, but is their an age that stands out as "they are too young"?

in the state of Kentucky 18 is the minimum age to join up as an active duty firefighter but many municipalities set their hiring age at 21, is there a reason; and do they have better results than hiring younger adults?

One thing I have heard several times over is that they may be immature and downright dangerous as a whole, and while you may find one out of 10 per say the odds are not worth the hassle according to some.

I don't feel that's the case, in fact I feel they may be limiting themselves to potentially amazing hires based solely on the idea that an 18 or 19 year old will not be as mature and ready for the job mentally as a 21+ year old firefighter.

But what about volunteers?

in many a volunteer department it is almost unheard of to turn an able body and qualified (no convictions and older than 18 physical able to do work) prospective recruit away. That's just not what happens. But is their a legit reason to fear these young prospects? I feel that often times we put young adults in a category of themselves, snot nose punks. It's human nature in itself to judge we judge from the 1st second we meet someone and often we create an umbrella covering for anyone who fits the bill. But in small volunteer departments how can one turn down someone who wants to help when we struggle as it is with staffing?

So the question remains should we not allow younger people on?

In lite of many LODD'S involving young adults in the service one does have another argument that they may not be ready, but for every one of those their are how many 21+ year old's who became a LODD? So to me (having been one of those young kids) I feel it's a individual basis. See we know some mature faster than others and we know that no two are the same. So is there an answer to this question?


Chief officers and company officers need to evaluate EVERYONE not just the under 21 crowd. I mean let's face it we all know someone over 21 who acts like a 16 year old and we know some 18 year old's who act 30 I mean our nation's armed forces will take them at 18 and make men and women out of boys and girls. If they can do that what are we not doing? Maybe it's us, maybe we don't want to take the time and help them develop into the productive firefighters we would like to see. Maybe it's the concern for liability if they get hurt because they don't listen. Whatever the case I feel we need to reevaluate our stance on this topic.

It's also a known fact that unlike in a metro department that hires every now and then when the senior guys retire in small volunteer departments you may not have that at all, in fact you may go years without anyone walking in the door. And while this is the case in some larger departments due to budget constraints these volunteer departments are only operating in some cases with 10 guys for in some cases of a districts that are much larger than their inner city brothers and sisters. I know of some that cover 200+ square miles with about 30 and that's a rarity in many cases to have that many. These young people are truly the life blood of the department they are the future and they are as important as the 30+ year vet (not as knowledgeable as the senior man but can carry out the skills the task the senior man is not capable of doing anymore.

See it’s not the age it’s the character of the firefighter, you can’t categorize based on age. WE need to evaluate on a case by case bases and evaluate each of these young members for who they are not who they are not. If they don’t want to listen snot nosed and immature than no they are not quite ready for the smoke filled room and hallways, but if they are open minded hungry to learn mature and you can put them with someone until they can run on their own than great!

So in closing don’t limit yourselves on a new hire or a new volunteer base it on their character, you may be surprised. 

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Comment by Ian Schulte on April 2, 2015 at 3:48pm


Putting aside all personal feelings towards you that I may have, I will answer your question to the best of my ability. In your blog you start out with many things pointing towards career organizations hiring only 21+ (as career members) and at that point you switch to volunteer organizations leading to somewhat of a confusing set up with your blog as a whole, so I will break my rebuttal into points between the two:

Us coming from the same region I can say that many organizations in the 859 hire 21+ year olds simply because of insurance and driving fire apparatus. Considering that a majority of NKY consists of combination organizations with only a few members on shift, it is often expected that your career members will be trained to operate apparatus. This is consequently due to insurance policies are written to cover members that are over the age of 21 for driving. Therefore, many of the organizations in the region hire employees that are over the age of 21 just to make things easier rather than run into scheduling conflicts that may place the organization into a bind without having a certified driver of age for insurance purposes. Some organizations, such as the one where I work, require volunteer members to be over the age of 21 to drive, career members must be at least 18, my organization very likely pays higher premiums for that risk, as heavy equipment requires more driving experience and insurance companies prefer people over the age of 21. Insurance companies do this because they feel that 21+ year olds are likely to have more experience driving than an 18 year old (likely, though not always).

Simply put, insurance companies are the reason why many chiefs prefer hiring over the age of 21 and unfortunately, our business is driven by budget and saving money rather than what is the RIGHT thing. (Not that I agree with it).

Many fully career organizations in the state hire members from the age of 18 or 19 (depending on city ordinance) and have a totally different set up as far as insurance goes. I cannot necessarily comment fully as I do not have a firm grasp on how some cities operate, though many will not allow someone to become a driver/operator for a predetermined number of years which would ultimately put all career members over the age of 21 (should insurance policies dictate such age). Therefore, the age consideration would be considered moot at best if that be the case.

Also, I don't know if I have seen many organizations (especially in our region) that have limitations on volunteer members being under the age of 21. In today's age many organizations have started Junior Firefighter programs that can help actively engage young members (14-18 years old) and get them out to help on fire scenes providing crucial help with incident mitigation. My organization has since adopted this program  and are having excellent assistance from younger members that wish to be engaged helping free up combat personnel for our operations. The burden of insurance being on state volunteer workers compensation should they be injured, helping to alleviate some of the monetary burden on small volunteer organizations. 

In the end, I know many chief officers in the region that would absolutely love to hire many of the 18-20 year old guys that have every certification necessary to perform their job and do it well. However, the fire service is unfortunately a business in 2015 and these chiefs have to do the best that they can with their insurance companies, because if they take the gamble and violate insurance policies, they can become potentially liable both civilly and criminally if they are found to be negligent and their actions lead to the death of either a civilian or firefighter. I agree that its a sad world that it has come to this, as it affected my potential for being hired when I was younger, but sometimes doing what we feel is the RIGHT thing can have wrong and disastrous consequences for the operation and the service as a whole. For once, I will agree with what you are saying, yet I understand why it is not necessarily this way.



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