PLAINVILLE — The town’s longest serving volunteer firefighters will be able to continue driving fire engines for a few more years after the Town Council modified the department’s mandatory retirement provision.
"I think moving them off to a driver is the proper thing to do. It takes them out of the grueling task of being an inside firefighter,” said Fire Chief Kevin Toner said during Monday’s nights council meeting.
The change allows firefighters approaching 65 to apply to become a driver until they reach the age of 72, with the approval of the fire chief and council. The age at which fire officers, who mainly do administrative work, must retire was also extended to 72 from 70.
"We've got some very talented people here that are not ready to retire, there's no real reason they should retire other than we have an age restriction,” Toner said. "In a day of declining volunteers, I think it's a very good step.”
“The driver isn't someone that goes into the fire...(they) would be the person that would drive the truck to the incident and set the truck up and make sure everything was done properly,” added Town Manager Robert Lee. “That generally requires a lot of knowledge and experience.”
Firefighter Jeff Johnson, who turned 65 in July, approached Lee to ask that the revision be made.
"That week we happened to have two extrications, which I drove to both, and a plane crash, which I drove (to),” Johnson said. "I think it's a step in the right direction, you're going to get two drivers back.”
"I'll take any test possible, if I can pass it I want to stay. But right now, until I'm 65, I'm going to fight as many fires as I can. Jimmy Ross taught me well,” said Firefighter David Mazurek. He referred to James Ross, a 34 year veteran of the department who passed away Friday and whose service was recognized at the council meeting.
"It's probably going to be the worst time in my life to turn 65...to give up firefighting after 38 years, I'm going to shed some tears,” Mazurek said. "We'll take as many tests as we can. As long as I can pass, I want to keep driving.”