They fight the most intense fires, do their best to salvage human life and property and risk their lives while doing the same. But are the firefighter salaries commensurate of the contribution that these brave young men and women make to the society? Well, the figures set by the Bureau of Labor Statistics provide us with minimum and maximum base salaries that different ranking firefighters earn.
The least earning among firefighters goes to engineers, who are paid a minimum of $48,307 and a maximum of $62,265 annually. Next on the rank are fire lieutenants, who receive a minimum of $50,464 and a maximum of $60,772 annually. The third ranking firefighters are fire captains with $60,605 and $72,716 annual minimum and maximum base salaries respectively. Fire captains are followed by the assistant fire chiefs who earn $65,691 minimum and $83,748 maximum annual base salaries. The higher ranking battalion chiefs are better compensated, raking in a minimum of $66,851 annually and a maximum of $81,710. A little higher on the salary ladder are the deputy fire chiefs who receive between $69,166 and $88,571 dollars annually. Highest on the salary ladder are the fire chiefs, who earn a minimum of $78,672 and a maximum of $104, 780 annual base salaries.
In addition to their base salaries and depending on the specific departments that firefighters work in, they are entitled to overtime pay beyond some specific hours. The average work hours for firefighters are however set by individual departments and there is no clear estimate of the amount of firefighter salaries earned from overtime work. The base firefighter salaries are also augmented by several benefits which include medical insurance, liability insurance, paid annual and sick leaves and in some cases, paid holidays.
States with the highest firefighter salaries according to 2009 statistics include New Jersey, which had an average of $70,000 for its firefighters, followed closely by California, which had an average annual compensation of $66,950. Washington DC came third, with annual firefighter’s compensation averaging $62,950 per firefighter. Nevada and New York on the other hand tied at fourth place with an average annual compensation of $69,000 for its firefighters.
In the United States, 66 percent of all firefighters were covered by labor union contracts, which guaranteed them access to fair labor practices including justifiable pay for their work. More to this, all firefighters are generally members of pension plans, which ensures that they continue receiving half of their firefighter salaries after retirement. This however is pegged on the condition that a person must have served as a firefighter for at least 25 years. Former firefighters who were disabled during work are also entitled to the pension plan regardless of the amount of time they had served in active service before the accident.
Whether the firefighter salaries are commensurate of the work they perform is a question that is open to debate. However, if the annual applications made to different fire departments across the United States are anything to go by, the thousands of young Americans willing to join this noble career in droves do not mind the compensation.