USDA Forest Service
||Contact: Joe Walsh, 202-205-1134
USDA INCREASES ENTRY AGE FOR
WASHINGTON, Oct. 2, 2001 -- The U.S. Department
of Agriculture has increased the maximum entry age for Forest Service
wildland firefighters from 35 to 37.
The move has been widely anticipated since the Federal Firefighters
Retirement Age Fairness Act was signed into law by President Bush
on Aug. 20, 2001, increasing all federal firefighters mandatory
retirement age from 55 to 57, whether they work for USDA, the U.S.
Department of Interior, or any other federal agency. The new law
makes the mandatory separation age for federal firefighters the
same as that for federal law enforcement officers with 20 years
of service--57 years of age.
The goal here is to strengthen the ranks of our Forest Service
firefighters, said Forest Service Chief Dale Bosworth. Increasing
the maximum entry age for firefighters will allow us to open the
occupation to a wider group of candidates thereby increasing our
ability to hire the best, the brightest and the most skilled.
The maximum entry age for firefighters, previously 35, was set
because it permitted 20 years of service before reaching the prior
mandatory retirement age of 55. Moreover, Forest Service officials
reported that numbers of applications for firefighter positions
typically met needs, eliminating any urgency to waive previous maximum
entry age requirements for individual firefighter positions.
New age provisions give the Forest Service greater flexibility
to hire more experienced firefighters. Some firefighters, having
gained experience through temporary positions, were ineligible for
permanent primary positions because of age requirements. Now, that
same group has an additional two years to apply for permanent positions.
Federal wildland firefighters should be pleased with this
decision, said Bosworth. It will enable us to improve
our firefighting capabilities with additional qualified candidates
and keep experienced firefighters on the line longer to protect
families, homes and businesses.