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.