WASHINGTON, OCTOBER 2, 2001 AT 2:45 PM EDT - 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.”