The New York Fire Department rejected a high-scoring Navy SEAL who wanted to join its ranks to serve the city because he was six months too old.
The events of 9/11 inspired the SEAL, 35-year-old Special Operations Chief Shaun Donovan, to apply to the department. New York City lost more than 340 firefighters in connection with the 2001 terrorist attacks.
Donovan, who enlisted in the military after graduating from college in 2005, served four combat tours in Afghanistan and Iraq. The SEAL earned medals for valor during his time. Donovan’s military term is set to conclude in 2020.
Donovan told the New York Post that he always felt a connection to the city, and especially after the 9/11 attacks.
“I always had a draw to the city, this connection, even though I never lived there,” he said. “When 9/11 happened, I knew I had to do something about it.”
He added, “I believe in the city, I believe in its values and its people. I want to do my part to keep it safe. ”
Donovan took the firefighter written exam in October 2018. He scored in the top 1 percent of more than 43,000 candidates. In January, Donovan took the Candidate Physical Ability test and passed.
In February, however, a FDNY background investigator told Donovan that he would not qualify to be an NYPD firefighter because he was six months and 25 days too old.
According to the Post, the firefighter “notice of exam” says that a candidate must not reach age 29 by the start of the application period beginning April 5, 2017, but could add up to six years if the candidate served in the military.
“It was a letdown,” Donovan said. “I was allowed to apply and take the test. At no point was I made aware I was outside any age limit. It just seemed everything was lined up and ready to go.”
Donovan appealed the denial, but Fire Commissioner Daniel Nigro rejected the appeal. A spokesperson said that the age requirements are not “subject to interpretation.”
Donovan, who is now 37 years old, has filed another appeal with the city’s Civil Service Commission. He may decide to sue if the appeal is rejected.
After Donovan’s story gained traction on the internet, offers to join other fire departments began flooding in.
The Post reported that more than a dozen departments invited Donovan to apply.
Greg Pixley, the Denver Fire Department’s head recruiter — also a fellow vet — told the Post that he would welcome someone like Donovan to apply.
“If the hiring process that Shaun is going through is not going to honor his service and recognize his capability, I want him to know that we will,” Pixley said. “That’s the kind of person we want.”
Applicants must be at least 21 years of age, according to the outlet. There is no upper limit on the applicant’s age.
“We believe that it someone has the physical and mental prowess to perform the job, they should be given the respect and the opportunity to be a firefighter,” he added.
Jonathan Baxter, spokesperson for the San Francisco Fire Department, also told the outlet that Donovan was welcome to apply.
“Tell him to apply to our fire department,” Baxter said. “We’ve had individuals in their 50s go through our fire academy, which is very extensive and difficult, both physically and mentally.”