Firefighter Salary

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, firefighters earned a salary of $45,250 a year in 2010, or $21.76 per hour. The job outlook for employment growth among firefighters is 9%, which is slower than average, although still respectable. Firefighters in highly-populated regions in New Jersey, California, Washington, New York and Nevada earn the highest in salary. The highest-paying regions for firefighters are located in California along the coastal cities, because of the high-demand for fire-fighting services due to brush fires and dense urban populations.

Other parts of the country, in contrast, fall far short of the national average because of budget limitations at the local level. Consequently, firefighter salaries can vary widely across jurisdictions and for different levels of seniority. In addition, overtime pay often makes up a significant portion of overall firefighter earnings, with the average overtime pay being somewhere between $3,000 to $10,000 a year. Some firefighters collect up to $25,000 in overtime each year, due to local staff shortages. Firefighters in Los Angeles have been reported at times to collect more than their base annual salary in overtime during particularly busy years (Firefighter Salary Guide Website Offers Comprehensive Look, 11 January 2012, Fire Chief).

Interest in firefighting as a profession has shown a recent small surge due to the NBC television series, Chicago Fire, which has around 6 million viewers per episode. The show's producers made extra efforts to ensure the portrayals of firefighters were realistic by assigning the cast and crew to real firefighters, trainers, and advisers at a firefighters' academy to perform simulated exercises in smokehouses, firehouses, and containers. Cast were subjected to exercises wearing full gear using heavy equipment in intense heat.

Firefighter Salary by Region

Atlanta

The starting salary for a firefighter in Cobb County, Georgia was $38,355 not including health and retirement benefits and overtime, as of 2011. This was just before the city went on a staffing drive to hire 24 new firefighters during the year.

Boston

According to recruiting information, The starting salary for a Boston firefighter was $52,000 in 2011.

California

Labour unions can have a significant impact on salary figures, with some local unions negotiating salary rates twice the national average. In 2004, for example, the Orange County Firefighters Union had achieved an average salary for their members of $92,000 per year, which is approximately $44.23 per hour. This was of course 10 years ago, which makes the inflation-adjusted salary today to be $115,000.

Firefighter overtime is a huge problem in Orange County, As of December, 2012, the average salary in the Orange Fire Department before benefits was $118,000. About $26,000 of this was due to overtime pay, and 107 of the 108 fire department employees received overtime pay in the last year (New Orange council to take up firefighter contract ; The panel is expected to discuss staffing, overtime pay, 18 December 2012, The Orange County Register).

Chicago

In 2011 the approximately 3,900 Chicago-area firefighters and 600 Chicago-area paramedics were earning an average of $50,000 in salary a year, but the union was lobbying to raise this to $68,500 over the next 18 months at the time. In 2010 Schaumburg firefighters and paramedics agreed to a retroactive contract (beginning in 2008 and ending in 2011) that established the starting salary in the first year to be $49,836 for firefighters-paramedics and for fire lieutenants $75,709 yearly. This increased by 3.5 percent across the board the next year to $51,580 yearly for firefighters and paramedics and $78,939 for fire lieutenants in 2009. This is where the figures stood in 2011 (Schaumburg OKs new firefighter deal, 15 April 2010, Chicago Daily Herald).

The starting salary for a firefighter in Des Plaines is currently $60,009, and this is expected to increase slightly in 2013. There are 94 sworn firefighters in Des Plaines' fire department, but the department has recently undergone a recruitment drive.

Washington D.C.

The starting salary for a Washington D.C. firefighter is $44,302, and the base salary for a firefighter with 20 years of experience is $65,568. Membership in the firefighters' union, Local 36, bumps that up to slightly more than $67,000, not including overtime (Fire chief's initiative opposed by union, 1 December 2011, The Washington Post).

Louisiana

Louisiana law requires a minimum salary amount for firefighters of $1,800 per month, or $21,600 a year, as well as certain minimum percentage differences among different rank levels. According to the local union for West Monroe, LA, the law entitles drivers to receive 10% more in salary than the starting base pay, captains to receive 25% more, and assistant chiefs to receive 50% more (West Monroe to appeal judge's ruling in lawsuit over city's pay practices for firefighters, 14 October 2011, Associated Press Newswires).

Kentucky

Starting salaries for firefighters in Henderson City are $31,896 and, with benefits of $26,875, to make a total annual compensation of $59,011.

Oklahoma

In 2009, the starting salary for an Oklahoma City firefighter is $40,027, while in Tulsa the starting salary is $35,790.

Rhode Island

Average salary for a city firefighter in Providence, RI is roughly $55,000, not including overtime, which they are compensated in time-and-a-half. Compared to other cities in other states, this is a very competitive and attractive rate. Providence has been in a recruitment drive since 2012, looking to fill about 50 to 100 or more vacancies over the coming years. There are about 400 firefighters working in Providence, RI, with about 92 working at any given day shift. Around one-third of workers are working overtime on any given day. In Providence, the fire department delivers 32,000 rescue runs each year, and half of these are for non-emergencies.

Maryland

The starting salary for firefighters in Anne Arundel County, Maryland is around $36,000 per year, slightly higher than salaries in Baltimore County ($34,000 per year), while in Howard County it is over $45,000 per year, and in Prince George's County it is $40,800. Since the cost of living in Anne Arundel is so high, over 64.5% of the 740 career firefighters working in that county commute to work from outside the county.

Nevada

According to news sources, firefighters in Las Vegas who are part of the Las Vegas City Employees Union earn $69,609 a year, which is 7% higher than firefighters in similarly-sized cities, while firefighter trainees earn $43,115 yearly, which is 12% higher than trainees in similarly-sized cities, and joint firefighter-paramedics made a much-higher salary of $83,086, which is 4% higher than similar jobs in similar cities (Salaries for city workers off chart, 1 November 2010, The Las Vegas Review-Journal).

New York

In 2007, the starting salary for a firefighter in Buffalo, New York was between $35,000 and $40,000 (Firefighters, city near 5&1/2-year accord: Healthy raises, givebacks involved in deal needing Council, control board OK, McClatchy-Tribune Business News, 23 January 2007). Firefighters in New York City appear to be underpaid in comparison to large cities in the rest of the country, making about 20% less. A rookie firefighter in New York makes between $30,000 and $35,000 a year.

North Carolina

In contrast to some of the higher salaries enjoyed by firefighters in California and Washington D.C., the starting salary for a firefighter in the Port City, NC is only $28,081, which is around 20% lower than comparably-sized cities. Firefighters in North Carolina have been under a great deal of pressure to perform overtime and work second jobs, such as bus-drivers, construction workers, tile-setters, equipment repairmen, plumbers, as general labour workers in trades, or even as part-time firefighters in other counties.

Missouri

The city of St. Louis, MO reports that its firefighters make an average of $58,000 a year, but the firefighters union says the average is closer to $47,000. There has been criticism across Missouri for firefighters making salaries well in excess of what some think they deserve, however. In Creve Coeur, senior firefighters with 15 or more years of experience earn a salary of $123,634 a year, not including a benefit package of $47,000 as well as 16 weeks of paid vacation and sick leave each year. In Pattonville, senior firefighters earn $108,403 in salary, not including $41,946 in benefits and 12 to 14 week of paid vacation and sick leave. In the Metro West district, the same senior positions earn $99,623, with benefits of $37,374, and 10 to 12 weeks of vacation and sick leave (Still burning Our view, Fighting (occasional) fires for fun and profit, 5 July 2010, St. Louis Post-Dispatch).

Texas

In San Angelo, Texas, firefighter salaries rank last in a comparison with other similarly-sized cities in Texas of about 100,000 people, such as Abilene, Midland, Tyler, Waco and Wichita Falls. San Angelo city fire-fighters make an average of $45,027 per year, which is about $5,272 less than the next lowest city, Midland.

Canada

The starting salary for firefighters in Calgary, Alberta is $24 an hour, or $52,968 per year for their first year, and slightly more with increases after the second and third years. By the fifth year, firefighters in Calgary earn $37 and hour or $81,495 a year, which is attractively-high for many seeking entry into the profession, especially considering that the only official qualifications for applying to be a firefighter are having a high school diploma, being over 18, and being a Canadian citizen, landed immigrant or permanent resident. Even those granted a pardon can apply. Continued retirement over the next several years is expected to open up a significant number of vacancies. Recruitment details can be found at calgary.ca/firerecruitment.

   

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