One other thing that this article does not touch on. The obesity problem and so many young men out of shape has rendered the pool of eligible candidates lower. Lexington, KY put out a call for free volunteer firefighter training and the requirements were something like 20 pushups, 10 pull-ups, 8 minute mile, climb a ladder with a pack on in a certain time, pull a fire hose x feet in y seconds, able to lift and carry 80 pounds, etc. Some 200 or so people, men and women I might add, showed up and 20 or so met the physical needs of the job. The job only paid on service rendered but it is considered a high prestige job and they could not get enough people to fill all the positions.
A million years ago I dated a dorky nerd girl who had this amazing sister that was her diametric opposite: the sister was a fire jumper. As in she parachuted into forest fires and cleared back burns, and did scary dangerous work including face offs with wild animals, traversing steep canyons and blazing trails and marking spots for the fire retardant air drops. When I was at my peak physical form, she ran circles around me, lifted more than I was able and had crazy physical endurance. (Her day job was a bouncer.) I got the chance to meet a few of the others on her team and even though she was one of the 'weaker' people in that group it hit home what a physically demanding job fire and rescue is. You can read and watch all you want, but stand next to those guys and realize those folks are STRONG. When they started to talk about lowering physical standards for EMT and firefighters in California to get more people into the forestry and fire departments in the late 80's, these people lost the farm. Since they only got paid if they were fighting fires, and if memory serves they got health benefits but no pension etc, many of them threatened to walk if people unable to do the physical work were let into the organization.
I have brought this up here on Hubski and elsewhere, but the country needs to stop the bullshit and figure out if we want to be a functional society or not. Firefighters are kind of important, and those people need to be paid and held in a high regard. Teachers need to once again be held to a high standard and also hold an honorable position in society. I think we send too many people to college and not enough people to union halls. And I wish I was able to pull all these thoughts together and write up a coherent statement as to why. My one good thought on this is that I am going to be dead in 15-20 years when all the chickens come home to roost and there is not enough people to do the grunt work and the place falls apart so I don't have to watch the aftermath.