Guardian Comment: The heated issue of firefighters

Guardian Comment.
Guardian Comment.

It is tough to understand, when the majority of us face working for a living past our mid 60s (and the rest), why firefighters should be pensioned off at 55.

As the dust settles from their four-hour strike yesterday – in opposition to raising the retirement age to 60 and other changes in pension conditions – the debate is well under way.

The Fire Brigades Union argues that expecting large number of firefighters in their late 50s to fight fires and rescue families is dangerous to the public and the firefighters themselves.

They have a point, of course. The thought of being trapped in a blazing building while a geriatric hero in black and yellow shuffles slowly up a ladder is not a scenario any of us wish to confront. We would be dead of smoke inhalation by the time they made it f or a start.

There is no doubt that it is a physically demanding job. But is 55 the right age for retirement?

With all the cuts in recent years – and those pending to services locally – there are no longer many desk jobs to accommodate those who can’t make the grade physically.

But in a society where the notion of a nice retirement is but a pipe dream for the wealthy, it can rankle. I don’t know what the answer is – and the government certainly doesn’t know.

But sending unfit and unwilling OAPs into a burning building to save a family is probably not it.