New law allows older firefighters

New law allows older firefighters

MARLOW, Okla._Volunteer fire departments across Oklahoma may have an influx of applicants, thanks to a new law that goes into effect this fall.

The old law put a 45-year-old age limit on those who can serve on volunteer fire departments. The one approved by the legislature and signed by Governor Fallin this spring removes that age restriction.

For many departments like the Marlow Fire Department, that often find themselves short staffed, this law opens up a completely new pool of applicants.

Marlow Fire Chief Ryan Hall said for the time being the department is made up of younger firefighters.

"Once the word gets out that it has changed, we could get some applicants that are 45 years of age or older," Hall said.

As with any change, there are pros and cons; Hall said a con could be the toll the job would take on the older bodies over time.

"This is a physical demanding job, you look at a guy, if he's still riding in the back of the truck and he's 70-years-old, it's going to be hard to perform those tasks. Even at 65 in my opinion, I know at 65 I don't want to be riding in the back of the truck," Hall said.

By the same token Hall said some guys are in great shape at 46 to 47 years of age.

Hall said it's those applicants who now will have a chance. Another benefit would be those veteran firefighters who retire from larger departments.

"This would give them an opportunity to come back to their hometown to a smaller department. Knowledge and experience is everything, I mean you can't beat knowledge and experience, it'd be a huge asset," Hall said.

Hall said in the last several years he's only had one person apply who was close to that 45-year-old cut off age. That applicant was 44-years-old and still works at the department. The new law will go into effect November 1st of this year.