Ability, not age or gender, should determine who gets to fight fires

Many years ago, we debated whether or not women should be allowed to become firefighters. The people against the idea asked the proponents if they were trapped in a burning building, would they want a woman or a man to carry them out.

My response was that it depended on the woman or the man. There are certainly some women strong enough to do it and quite a few men who aren’t. Now, we’re having a similar debate over whether there should be mandatory retirement for firefighters at age 60. In Renfrew, it appears to be a sudden decision aimed at a specific individual. But it reinforces the fact that age and gender are very arbitrary determinants of whether or not someone is able to do a tough physical task, especially when there are other ways to measure their capacity.

I bet there are some 60-year-olds who could perform well as firefighters and plenty of 30-somethings who would find it too challenging. Rather than discriminate based on age, why not have a test for firefighters every year after they turn 55 or 60. If they are physically able to keep working and they still want to, no one should stop them.

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