Aging Rural/Metro firefighters can't afford to retire

Unlike Ted Beam, this firefighter says he was discouraged from selling his stock. "They said I was crazy to do it," he says, although "they didn't stand in my way. It was more like, that's not a sound decision. I wanted to diversify. Glad I did."

Instead of meetings where he was encouraged to diversify, the employee recalls "flip charts and bar charts" showing how much he'd get over a 20-year period, if he didn't sell. "They were projecting ridiculous growth. It was unbelievable for me because I'd been buying stocks for a while. That was during the you're-all-going-to-be-millionaires talks."

Even with his other investments, which have done well, the firefighter figures he'll have to retire at 65.

Kevin Scanlon
Kevin Scanlon

His hope is that the cities and towns that contract with Rural/Metro -- including the one he works for -- will break away and form their own public fire departments. That's not out of the question; Sun City, Sun City West, Gilbert and the Salt River Indian Community have all parted company with Rural/Metro. Whether to keep Rural/Metro service or start its own fire department has been the source of intense political debate for months in the town of Fountain Hills.

The firefighter says he went to work for Rural/Metro so he could serve his hometown, but the decision has not served him well.

If he joins the state retirement system, he'd only have to put in a few more years to get a major portion of his retirement, the firefighter says.

He hopes it happens soon.

"I'm starting to hurt after fires. I'm almost 50 years old, and I have nowhere to go."

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