Wilmington firefighters union writes open letter to city council regarding pay


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Submitted: Fri, 03/01/2013 - 9:32pm
Updated: Tue, 03/12/2013 - 3:26pm
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WILMINGTON, NC (WWAY) —  It’s one of the most important public services a community can have, but the Wilmington Fire Department says their current pay rate is unsustainable and unacceptable.
 
Just days before the Wilmington City Council’s next budget meeting the Wilmington Professional Firefighters Association sent a letter to each council member asking to be treated like valued assets to the community.
 
"The importance of firefighters to the community is I think vastly understated,” said Chuck Bower, president of the Wilmington Professional Firefighters Association.  “We're an inexpensive insurance policy there's no doubt about it.  As a professional department what we bring to the citizens is difficult to even be measured in dollars and cents."
 
A letter sent to the Wilmington City Council by the Wilmington Professional Firefighters Association is asking them to put a value on their service outlining current firefighter pay in comparison to pay in the police department.
 
"A starting firefighters hourly wage is $9.53, a starting police officer makes more than that at $15.57,” said Bower.  “Would you honestly want to risk your life for $9.53 cents an hour because that's what they're asking Wilmington Firefighters to do."
 
Bower says that while making the Wilmington Fire Department the top paid department in the state is a dream he realizes that it is unrealistic, but he feels a state average salary is within reach.  However, Bower says that past proposals of a 2% raise just won’t cut it.
 
"A 2% raise for me as an employee of the City of Wilmington who has been here for over 12 years, 2% means $.26 an hour to me,” said Bower.  It just doesn't cover the bills, it doesn't cover the rising cost of health insurance, and it doesn't cover the rising cost of fuel.  Our starting wage has got to go up to at least what our mid-point is and I'm saying probably $13 an hour.  If we work towards average but then make a commitment to a long term sustainable continuation of growth and salaries if we can just maintain average or slightly above I think we would be pretty well off."
 
The letter sent by the Wilmington Professional Firefighters Association as sent to the Wilmington City Council is listed below:
 
This letter is written to you today to express some concerns and make a request of you.  It is our hope to meet with all of you at some point, but time constraints of the budget process make this letter necessary.  During Mayor Saffo’s State of the City Address there were many positive points.  It was unfortunate that there was no mention of the employee’s sacrifices or monetary losses.  There is no question that we are all thankful to have a job and we have done our part in getting through tough times.  But, we find it extremely difficult to believe that City Council and Management of this City consider employees a valued asset.  When discussing long term commitment to improvements for the City, incentives to businesses, the film industry and substantial growth of the unreserved fund balance, we wonder where we fit into the plan.
      
In short, we are talking about compensation, benefits and the lack of commitment by Management and Council to develop a long term solution.  In the past twelve years, studies conducted externally and internally by the City provide consistent results.  Executive salaries are well above average and rank and file employees are below average or last in comparable markets.  It is our firm belief that Department heads have been consistent in their attempts to inform the City Manager of the need for action.  But there seems to be a lack of conviction to fully apprise you of the situation.  Simply “looking into it” or requesting another study will not translate to any real action. There are past pay studies information available to you, and plenty of internal documents providing comparisons in pay.  We are reaching a critical mass, if there is not a committed long term funding solution for Firefighter compensation, we will forever be in last place.  A significant problem for you, but one that needs attention.  While top pay or above average would be nice, we think it is a reasonable assumption that Firefighters would be satisfied with average salaries.  Not below average or last.
       
In a City that tries so very hard to be tops in tourism, business climate and quality of life, it seems disingenuous to call Firefighters a valued asset and keep salaries among the lowest of comparable Cities. When are you going to seriously invest in those of us that have committed to making a career out of the City of Wilmington? 
         
In the particular case of our Department (Fire), the previous administration’s series of poor decisions and lack of action led to a stagnation in salaries.  Lack of adherence to the City’s own Personnel Policy #2, section III regarding periodic review of compensation, also compounded the problem.   Additionally, not fully funding actual recommendations of the last pay study struck a heavy blow.  As an example of the problems we are experiencing, ten years ago we had a $600.00 separation in starting salaries from the Police Department, now it’s $6000.00.  There is something very wrong with this salary gap.  With that in mind, we are not pleading a case for all City employees, we represent the rank and file Firefighters of the City of Wilmington and we need to be given some serious consideration.  Pay parity with the Police Department and full restoration of deferred compensation would be a start.  
 
In our research, other comparable municipalities have dealt with this very problem incrementally but consistently, so as not to devastate the budget.  We ask that you consider the same tactic.  Identify the lowest salaries and commit to funding and timeline for correction.  Each pay classification can be corrected this way and minimize the impact on the budget.  Surely we have the staff and resources to create and implement such a plan.  At this point, the last study by the Waters Consulting Group could be revisited, and the same formulas applied.  If it’s determined there has to be a study, our organization can provide analysis of Firefighter pay, at no cost to the City.  That might be oversimplification, but the point is we have the information and it is consistent with past and current studies.  We need a long term funding solution and commitment from Management and City Council.  With that being said, we fully understand that expansion in the budget would probably affect the taxpayers in the form of higher taxes.  A decision that needs to be made unless a more creative solution can be found.
     
A recent advertisement in our newspaper, two full pages, by a large local real estate company exclaimed that their sales were up 33% from last year.  Sales tax revenues are at or near the same levels as 10 years ago.  Housing starts are up and businesses are trying to relocate or expand here.  The City’s own news letter heralds the strength of the City’s finances including the substantial recovery of the City’s savings account.  Things are looking up and we would like to be foremost in your minds as you consider this year’s budget.
     
The level of commitment and professionalism that you receive from our Firefighters has led to consistently high rates of citizen satisfaction, a 98% satisfaction rate.  With each Firefighter you get;  Firefighter II, EMT-B, Hazardous Materials Operations, Rescue Tech., Water Rescue, Driver/Operator, Car seat Tech., Shipboard Firefighter.  Additionally, we have our daily duties of building and grounds maintenance, equipment checks and responding to calls for emergency service.  As time goes by, more certifications are required, advanced education is becoming a requirement, all with no corresponding incentives or increased pay.  The taxpaying Citizens of this community expect and receive a high level of professionalism from our Fire Department.  They receive that at bargain basement prices.  Although we would like top shelf compensation, getting us on a middle shelf in the light of day is a fine start. We are professionals, please compensate us accordingly.
    
In closing, we want to thank you for taking the time to hear or read our concerns.  Your path is a difficult one and you have served this community well in difficult times.  We just ask that you please make a commitment to those of us that make City Public Safety the success that it is.
 
Respectfully submitted,
 
Chuck Bower, President
Scott Hewett, 1st Vice President
Shannon Provencher, 2nd Vice President
Chris Chadwick, Treasurer
Norm Hinkle, Secretary
Wilmington Professional Firefighters Association
 

57 Comments

  • Guest1 says:

    I agree that firefighters are just as important as police officers, seems like the law enforcement side pay needs to be adjusted to be more in line with the firefighters, this would help all concerned in these hard economic times.

  • Besty_Guesty says:

    Our firefighters, police officers, and other city employees do a great job. Unfortunately, in this economic environment, the taxpayer has been rolled, spindled, and mutilated.

    Remember the money squandered on a convention center. Remember the money squandered on the hubristic baseball stadium fiasco. Remember that that money could have provided raises for our firefighters, police officers, and other city employees.

    Remember that at the next election.

  • Professional Firefighter says:

    Reno Guest, first of all I am somewhat at a lost on how to reply to your posts as they seem to be all over the place and make some very disconnected points. But I will try. From what I can gather you used to be a volunteer firefighter “somewhere”. Also you say that a “dirty farmer” volunteer firefighter once came to help you, and additionally, you do date yourself with the use of the term “rescue squad” and the fact that you say you quit being a volunteer firefighter when departments began offering Emergency Medical Service. So based on these limited facts alone, I am going to assume that you were a volunteer firefighter for a very small rural community about two decades ago.

    What you were not was a highly trained, educated, career firefighter, serving a community of over 100,000 citizens, in today’s modern emergency response field. Including responding to such threats as the “average” fire, large commercial facilities storing, using, and transporting highly dangerous hazardous materials, a community with a large retirement population who are statistically more likely to suffer from a life threaten medical conditions, a highly compacted downtown and historic district with commercial and residential structures built closely together before modern fire codes, and construction methods and materials. A nationally recognized overburden traffic and street system with the highest rate of accidents in the state, a fast moving river and intracoastal waterway system with a large amount of recreational and commercial boat traffic, a large state port located in the middle of the city that stores and transports a large volume of hazardous materials and other commodities, and a post 9/11 world where the threat of a terrorist act, however small, exists for every community, especially one that has a university, a concentrated population, numerous large scale public events, and a state port.

    For the sake of full-disclosure and honesty, I am one of those highly trained career firefighters who serve a large and vibrate community of over 100,000 people, and who is trained to help prevent and minimize the effects of these potential disasters and many others. Additionally, I am also trained and willing to help educate the children, seniors, and other members of our community groups the importance of fire prevention, as well as willing and able to install smoke detectors for those in our community who may be less fortunate than others, as well as insure that new parents, grandparents, family, and friends have their child safety seats properly installed so that we can prevent the needless death and injury that has been caused by the improper use of them. That is what I am, that is what I speak of, and that is what I do for $9.53 a hour because I have a desire to help others, a desire to have a rewarding career, and because I expect that the citizens I serve will recognize this fact and provide me with a living wage, and most importantly, to support me and my fellow firefighters in the eyes of our city leaders, instead of criticizing us based on some out-dated, and quite possibly, jaded opinions they formed during their years in a volunteer fire department, in some small rural area, two decades ago.

    While I also do not believe in calling people names, (I am not going to say that you are stupid or an idiot), but I will say that you are un-informed about the history of today’s modern, career fire-service. And if you are not, then I am going to include the following “history lesson” for those who may be. During the 1970’s there was a large number of structure fires in almost every metropolitan community on almost a daily basis. It actually was jokily referred to as “urban renewal” by many within the fire service. The fire service recognized this fact and began pushing for stronger fire prevention laws and education, the use of modern fire-resisted construction materials, and the increased use and requirement of smoke detectors. These efforts, among others, helped to decrease the death and destruction caused by “fires”. With these increased responsibilities, as well as stagnant wages, firefighters began to call for higher wages. While you would think that elected officials and citizens would have rewarded them for their hard efforts to prevent fires, they actually listened to the “bean-counters” who said that firefighters were responding to less number of “fire” calls, so they must just be sitting around drinking coffee. So the fire service recognized a need and ability for them to help in regards to providing emergency medical care, and fire-based EMS was born to assist the “rescue squads”. Again, firefighters believed that they were under-paid for the increased services they were providing, and again, instead of thinking the fire service for increasing the number of lives that were being saved in a pre-hospital emergency setting, they again looked at the number of “fire” calls, which were still decreasing based on the fire service’s fire prevention efforts, and said that the firefighters must still be drinking coffee. This continued over and over again as the fire service worked to start and perform hazardous materials response, water rescue response, vehicle extrication response, confined space response, high-angle rescue response, fire education programs, and others, in order to better serve their citizens and to stop being criticized for drinking coffee.

    Then in the immediate after-math of 9/11, 343 New York Firefighters put down their coffee cups and made the ultimate sacrifice, but again and again, the bean counters only looked at “fire” calls (you know what this is don’t you, it’s where a firefighter sprays water and then gets out of the way, in complete disregard for the occupants that may need rescuing, or any other hazards, such as ruptured gas lines, roof and floor collapse, flash-over, back-drafts, etc., etc., and if you can’t detect my sarcasm, let me just say that the “fire” was the least concern for the FDNY on that fateful day). But with all of these additional sacrifices and responsibilities, all of which is in service to our community, we still find that our highly trained and dedicated public servants are under-paid, and they only make $9.53 an hour for all that they do. Instead of supporting them, you and others look to criticize them. Including criticizing them for taking a couple of minutes every now and then to have a cup of coffee, and discuss with their “brothers and sisters in service” something a little more light-hearted then seeing a dead baby at a traffic accident, a young mother killed in a house fire, or a grandfather who died from a heart attack after all of their hard efforts to save him. Or maybe to take a second to make a call home to tell their family that they love them, miss them, and sorry they cannot be there for Christmas morning, sorry that they cannot tuck their children into bed, and to tell their loved one to keep holding down the fort for the next 24 hours, every third day, until they can safely return home again!!!!

    Now let’s address the “cushy” schedule the firefighters seem to have according to some people who have never taking the time to fully understand it. It goes without saying that the fire department is opened 24/7, 365. That comes to 8,760 hours a year firefighters must be on duty. With three shifts of firefighters working, that comes to a firefighter working 2,920 hours a year, while the average 40 hour a week employee only works 2,080 hours a year. That means that a firefighter works an average of 56 hours a week, or eight hours a day, every day, 365 days a year, including Christmas, Thanksgiving, 4th of July, New Years, their children’s birthday, their wedding anniversary, etc., etc., etc. For those of you who may say “yea, but I work 60 hours a week at my job”, remember you get paid time and a half for those additional 20 hours, while firefighters have a special overtime exemption written into federal law that says they do not get paid overtime until they work MORE THEN the 56 hours a week average. And if you are not making time and a half then either your employer is breaking the law, or you own your own business and get to reap the rewards of your hard work (unlike firefighters who have reduced the number of deaths and injuries from fires, heart attacks, hazardous materials spills, etc., etc., etc., yet see no rewards for their actions), all of which is a separate discussion for a separate time. That is the true definition of their “cushy” schedule, all for $9.53 an hour.

    Let’s also be very clear when we define what we are discussing here. We are discussing the woefully low salaries of Wilmington Firefighters when compared to their pears throughout the state. A figure that has been showed time and time again, by numerous studies, both internally and externally, to be almost disgraceful when compared to other municipalities. We are not talking about a volunteer fire department in Brunswick County, a rescue squad in Pender County, “my old department up north”, the ISO ratings in Timbuktu, or any of the other topics people seem to want to bring up to redirect and redefine the discussion (which is a very old debate principal used by someone who cannot effectively debate the original topic). We are talking about the woefully below average pay of firefighters here in a community of over 100,000 people, that answered over 10,000 calls for service last year, that provides fire response, emergency medical response, hazardous materials response, extrication response, confined space rescue response, high angle rescue response, water rescue response, marine firefighting response, WMD response, in addition to fire prevention, smoke detector installation, child safety seat installation, and fire education to the children in our schools.

    We are talking about professional firefighters that must complete 240 hours a year of training to maintain their firefighter certification, in addition to continuing educational requirements to maintain their certifications in Emergency Medical Care, hazardous materials training, rescue training, water rescue training, marine firefighting training, WMD training, etc., etc., etc., and those who are working to obtain their Associates Degree in Fire Science so that they can be recognized as the professionals that they already are, while responding to a call for service about every 45 minutes on average, department wide. Now if you think that all they do is drink coffee then you must not have a good understanding of how many hours there are in a day, or you just refuse to change your out-dated thinking of today’s modern, professional, career firefighter. And if you honestly think that a group of “volunteers” can provide this same level of service, that an employer would allow their employee to leave and go “volunteer” every 45 minutes when they are at work, that they same volunteer would get out of bed every 45 minutes, 365 days a year, and that they would attend training 4 hours a night, every night of the year including weekends and holidays, while working to get an Associate’s Degree, then you really do not have an understanding of what the trained, professional, career, firefighters of the Wilmington Fire Department do!!!!!

    But remember, when you or your loved ones need one of them, they will put their cup of coffee down and be there for you, they will give you the highest level of service they can, they will continue to miss holidays, weekends, birthdays, anniversaries, and family reunions to help you, and if you can’t at least find it in your heart to say thank you once in a while, that’s OK too, because they do it for the love of their fellow citizens, and they do it because they believe that they truly are their brother’s keeper.

  • riversandpeaks says:

    Hello everyone,

    For those of you career firefighters who are reading my post, this might sting a little. I am a career FF in the Pacific NW. I recently quit my Union, yes, you heard me, I quit the Union, not my job. Why? Was it selfish? Was it because I didn’t want to spend the money on dues? Was it because I am disgruntled over Union related business? A “brother” screwed my wife? The answer to all of those questions and many more which assume I am a trader and the ultimate pariah is a resounding NO! I quit because we’re ripping off the public and I won’t be party to the charade anymore. More importantly, I am not paying to have many of the laziest people I have ever met in a truly cushy job!

    Here’s the truth about 60-75% of all firefighters; they’re lazy, selfish and they don’t fight fire…much…if at all! I quit my union because of the first two character flaws listed above. The third one is the truth which dispels an on-going myth perpetuated by the International Union (IAFF) to convince the public that we are an expense the public simply can not live without. Private Ambulance Companies are doing our real “jobs” better, faster and cheaper. Private Fire Departments could use that model for Fire and Rescue operations, that’s a fact, not an opinion. I say cheaper, because private industry will only bill the people who call them to use their services. Think private school vs public schools; whose kids are being better educated? Truth be told, we don’t go to work and run into burning structures on a regular basis. The fact is that 80-90% the the calls career firefighters respond to, regardless of whether the department is a city, a suburban or a rural, are medical in nature.

    In my agency, the average salary for a top step FF (three years into their career) is $75k, the average firefighters beyond that time and whom are not ALts (acting Lieutenants) is $82k, beyond that, the promotional hard bar positions, LT, Cpt, and BC average ~$90-110k! That doesn’t include their “second” jobs almost all FF maintain. I bet the average annual household salary for a firefighter is upwards of $125K here on the West Coast. Here’s the real kicker, I only paid 50 bucks a month last year to provide, arguably the best, medical/dental coverage to me , my wife and my two kids (plus, I get $6k per year deposited into an HSA account to cover co-pays, braces and the like). You would think for that level of salary and benefits, you would be getting healthy, fit and motivated men and women responding to your emergency. Yet, the FF I work with bitch and moan about getting up to respond to calls at three AM, even if all they did throughout the day was to sit in the, always present, recliners and watched 8 hours of the NFL . The truth….over 40-50% of career firefighters in this country are fat and out of shape. The greatest cause of death to an American career firefighter is related to cardiovascular disease. This is not caused by “on the job risks” and should only be considered a presumptive illness because most firefighters over-eat, smoke/chew, drink too much and exercise too little!

    Here’s more reasons to play a violin for all us “heros”! The typical career FF schedule is 24 on 48 off, plus 8-12 days vacation, plus 16 days of Kelly Days (an extra day off to balance out a 40 hour work week). Here’s the math using the above schedule as the criteria: 365 days per year divided by 3 (we work once every three days)=~122 days minus 10 vacation days=~112 days worked, but let’s not forget about ol’ Kelly, 113-16= 96 days worked per year or 2,304 hours per year (excluding an avg of 4 “sick” days used per year for the American firefighter).

    That alone does not sound all that luxurious for us FF, it’s actually quite typical for an American worker. Let’s put that on the standard of the poor working stiff fighting traffic everyday: that’s about a 9 hour day, five days per week for 52 weeks. Most Americans work between 2,040 and 2,080 hours annually. Now, let’s factor in why I am disgusted with many career firefighters I know: there are many nights we sleep all night, watch TV all day, wash our trucks, throw the football, play around on the internet, etc. How many other professionals, making nearly six figures, can come to work, turn on every light and t.v. in the place, throw a brisket on a (union supplied) smoker, and work out in the (Department provided) gym? Not many!

    Here’s where I am coming from, I worked in the private sector for 18 years before earning my dream job as a fireman; now I am embarrassed at how many spoiled brats with whom I “work”! We are our own worst enemies and the Unions are only serving to facilitate us cannibalizing ourselves!

  • Vog46 says:

    Hear Hear…….
    That has GOT to be the post of the day.

    Nicely said

    Vog

  • reno says:

    The fact is firemen are just people off the street hired to wash trucks then drive them to the store and bank to get money out of the ATM so they can drive a 40 ft truck to the store to get a cup of coffee.They used the ISO rating in brunswick county to get fire fees attached to your property tax,now new buildings and equipment all over the county.we already pay tax and the fire fee is a double tax.The fact is the fire department only exsist to help save insurance company money at the taxpayers expense.The fact is i called the ISO and was told if i put a fire extinguisher and smoke detectors in my home i could keep a ratting just as good as the fire department.The fact is they told me it only takes 1 truck and 4 volunteer firemen to hold a good ISO rating.The fact is i was a volunteer fireman for years and we held a good rating and only had 2 trucks and 6 volunteer firemen .So the fact is there are no heroes except the chiefs that lie about ISO ratings just to milk more money from the taxpayers.The fact is look at all the equipment they dont need that could be used for paid firemen,Now thats a fact jack.

  • renoGuest says:

    WOW
    Nuf said , thats what i am talking about….a 6000 word liberal answer to a simple question??
    I am done talking to the wind

  • renoGuest says:

    Let me try one more time to make this easy, My question was,
    Why do the chiefs and commissioners tax and tax the people with false ISO excuses just to build 12000 square foot buildings and buy $500,000 trucks for hard` working firemen to have to keep clean at $10.00 per hour without giving the firemen a raise?
    Thats all i was asking.

  • reno says:

    REALLY……….The above letter from a UNION !!! LOOK AT THE ENDING !!Respectfully submitted… President,1st vice president,2nd vice president,treasurer,secretary,add more chief, assistant chief,secretary to the chief,captain ,assistant captain,secretary to the captain,this could go on and on, please a lot of us would be proud to be making ten dollars a hour right now,what a shame what a waste.YOU PEOPLE BETTER BITE THE SEAT OF THE CHAIR YOU ARE SITTING IN AND TRY TO HOLD ONTO YOUR GOVERNMENT JOBS! People are starting to see through the lies. Why dont you do like we used to do get a better paying job and be a volunteer fireman.Be a real hero once without all the crying.

  • Guest 150 says:

    Well you go work 24 hours, be up all night long at a working fire. Go home and change, go out and cut lawns all day. Get up the next day and work another 24 hours. Try that day in and day out. I awm away from my famliy a lot. On holidays, brithdays, deaths in the famliys and alot more that you can not think of. I am a firefighter and I did not become a payed firefighter to be rich. I got in to doing this for the love of the job and helping out. This is not like working at Walmart. We can not just get up and move to another city for a job. If we could the city of wilmington would be with out firefighters. If you have to work two or three jobs to pay the bills that is crazy. Lets look at the price of a old house. It is around 120,000.00 Can a new firefighter makeing 9.45 per houre live here? Hell no. Look at food coast going up and up with gas. I was reading the comments and one person state his son make more then a new firefighter. I can beleve that. Pay these guys!!

  • Joe says:

    Reading this literally blows my mind.
    My 16 year old nephew makes as much as the starting firefighter’s salary in Wilmington.
    He get’s a raise in six months too.
    He could go across the street and work at the union super market and get a $2/hr raise.

    It is very very sad these public servants who protect you and your property must place themselves in danger for such low wages.
    Guarantee if they went on strike, every taxpayer would be sitting out in front of their house with a handful of cash if their property was burning.
    Do yourselves a BIG favor
    Remove every elected official from office next opportunity.
    Please Please for each of you, NO MORE Brian Bergers !!!!!

  • Frank Conklin says:

    Sir…. The fire department is the one you call if you or the police departments have no idea how to solve a problem. Everything from a car in the river, to a fuel spilled on the street, to a local warehouse on fire with chemicals that if released will annihilate the community in which you live. The underpaid professional firefighters in your area are trained to mitigate all kinds of emergencies. They are specialized in all forms of rescue and fire extinguishment techniques. You should take the time to realize that when you have an emergency…. And you will… a professional firefighter will be there with the skill and experience it takes to save the lives of yourself or your loved ones. Don’t forget that on your worst day with a problem you are not capable of solving on your own (trapped in a burning building, in a terrible car accident trapped, to the heart attack you may have at 4 in the morning) the fire department will be there. Then and only then will you realize how stupid the comment you made was. Have a great day and be aware that the police that you love and respect will not be able to push the dashboard off of your entrapped legs, stop you’re bleeding, begin advanced life support and transport you to the appropriate health care facility. That’s the firefighter’s job… NOW pay them a livable wage and thank them for serving selflessly the next time you run into one.

  • Brad says:

    We are think for the jobs we have and the benefits however we are there each shift willing to DIE for you. You title your response really….and I say are you really that ungrateful. Remember your comments when you have to call and ask for our help one day. I am not with wilmington however I am a brother in the fire service and I agree with everything they have stated.

  • Beach Bum says:

    Well….

    You should of factored those things you claim into your decision making process before you VOLUNTARILY signed your name to the application.

    You have my sympathy, but not my empathy.

    Don’t like what comes with the gig, quit.

  • Guest33 says:

    A hero is a man of distinguished courage or ability, admired for his brave deeds and noble qualities. One who shows great courage… Our firefighters certainly ARE heros. Thanks for all you do WFD, you truley are appreciated!

  • renoGuest says:

    The fact is…I dont need you the police department or anyone else to solve my problem because i have been the problem solver all my life. The fact is it is NOT i repeat NOT the fire departments job to provide life support or to transport me to any healthcare facility, that would be qualified rescue squad. The fact is firemen should spray water and then stay out of the way unless since they are paid and they perform these duties as you say then the fire department is liable for any damage they do to me by not being qualified to do that job. Sir i am far from stupid i have served the fire department and have made many sacrifices without ever expecting anything in return, so if i am stupid then you must think all firemen are stupid. You for one need to get out of the office and get hands on training,

  • renoGuest says:

    Be sure to read my letter titled ISO and give me a response to it please as no one is replying on that one, I wonder why ?

  • renoGuest says:

    I was a volunteer fireman for years , firefighters are are like sheep if you give them a leader the flock will follow. I have pulled many a firefighter out of a burning building because they did not put their safety first. A person like that is no help to anyone so please do not have the attitude you are willing to die for anyone or you just might god forbid. please put yourself first watch whats going on around you and then you can help others.god bless.

  • Lewis says:

    Just for clarification. North Carolina is a RIGHT TO WORK state. Firefighter associations in NC can not operate as a union. They are not allowed to stike or particiapte in collective bargaining. What they can do is offer a collective means of communicating their concerns as an organization within the local government.

  • To RenoGuest says:

    I would agree youre not stupid for that is giving to much credit, you are an IDIOT.

    First off; you say “rescue squad”, I assume what you really mean is the Emergency Medical Services or (EMS), you know the box on wheels with the flashing lights and sirens, that comes to help when problem solvers like yourself have a problem that they can’t solve.

    Second; if you were really such an expert like you claim to be, you would know that across this nation, a large number of the Fire Departments do indeed handle both fire services, and EMS (not the “rescue squad” as you inproperly like to call it). That means that its members are qualified to A) extinguish the fire B) remove a victim from the dangerous atmosphere C) put them on the stretcher and into the EMS unit D) administer aid and transport them to the appropriate healthcare facility.

    Finally; There are still Fire Departments that do not provide EMS transportation to the hospital. However, most departments are now first responders, that at minimum, are at an EMT-Basic level with many at a Paramedic level. What this means, is if the EMS unit dedicated to your area is on a call helping another problem solver like yourself, the closest fire engine will respond (with the same equipment that the EMS unit has minus a stretcher) to administer aid, stablizize the patient, and prepare them for transport once the ambulance has arrived.

    Maybe next time you should put your problem solving skills to work and gather some facts before bashing people that know the facts.

    Good Day

  • Lewis says:

    Reno you have several qualified arguements throughout this thread. First, I would recommend you direct you your irratation about the fire fee at local officials who are unwilling to raise taxes or make buget adjustments. Instead they use fees to cover necessary services. Second, some of what you stated about the ISO rating is true but you created a very misleading understanding of ISO ratings and their requirements. ISO rating of 9 can be met by your description of 1 truck and four firefighters. That does leave out times, water supply, distances, pump capacity etc. Many volunteer departments have ISO ratings of 7-4 depending on staffing, equipment, location etc. Your WFD has an ISO of a 2 – one shy of being the best. The WFD webpage even posts their rating and provides the necessary links for the general public to educate themselves on what quality of service they receiving.

  • reasonable voice says:

    First and foremost, I am a wife of an honorable firefighter and paramedic, a mother of 4 children who have to kiss their father goodbye every other day for 24 hrs, and a nurse who has served New Hanover and Brunswick County for over 13 years. For those that believe being a firefighter is “cushy”, you my friend are simply just too naive and I daresay that if you were the one that had to run into a fire to try to save someone you would be in a sore need of an adult brief. Every special event in our life has been affected by my husband’s choice of career. I myself being a trauma nurse have seen some horrific things in my career but on my top 3 worst cases that will haunt me are the burned victims. We both serve the public in different forums but most definitely work within the higher range of human desperation and catastrophic situations. I know better than most the harm my husband has put himself in to save some your ungrateful arses and it does all but solidify my doubt in my husband’s fervor in his dedication to this community.
    I want you all that have voiced your opinions concerning opposing the plight of WFD to obtain AVERAGE pay to really realize what you are saying. You are getting angry with someone that has a true dedication to his public service for you. My husband and I try not to think about the dangers we both face in our jobs because if we do that too often we couldn’t do what we do however we were CALLED to do this. For those who say, “If you don’t like the pay then you need to quit.” Obviously you have never been in a career that you loved and a job is a job so it would be like Ghandi trying to teach the meaning of life to dust bunnies. Gentlemen, you have no point of reference to understand this level of dedication to your community.
    For those that say, “Get another job to support your income…” I work part time and I am the bread winner in the family. My firefighter husband works full time for the city and part time job as a paramedic and STILL is bringing home grossly less income than I do. I know for a fact that times have been extremely hard on a few firefighters that they themselves and their wives have donated plasma to pay for groceries rather than to apply for federal assistance. Cushy? Shamed yet Brian?
    Then for those that said,”every few years the firefighters and families come out to whine about not getting fair wages and blather about how they are treated unfairly”…well did ya think we might actually stop if we ever DID get those raises??? WFD has yet to receive them therefore get your ear plugs out because we will continue to fight for equal pay.
    In conclusion, if we throw out the “how dare you say my husband’s life is worth $9.46 hr and no more” argument and get down to the business aspect of this argument. I believe the community should be enraged at the city council for poor allocation of your tax dollars. So before you get mad at the employee that serves you, you better make sure your anger is directed at the ones that took your money and allocated it to something other than your safety.

  • Guest9743 says:

    Why not just go downtown and make a donation…I don’t think most of us are willing to pay any more in taxes.

  • Guest2020 says:

    “what we bring to the citizens is difficult to even be measured in dollars and cents”

    As someone who has lived through the experience of both a house fire and a car fire I can attest to the fact that what these men and women do are invaluable. You cannot put a price on what they do, but you could at least pay them a decent wage commiserate with the service they provide. I have made more than $9.53 an hour as a secretary and I have never had to put my life on the line for my job. If the Mayor and City Council were willing to shell out an obscene amount of money for an unnecessary stadium, they can certainly shell out the money to decently compensate the firefighters for their services.

  • Guest123234 says:

    Same old story. I know firefighters families think they are worth more than they are being paid which is probably true. But you have to look at your personal situation and make adjustments when necessary.There is a firefighter in my neighborhood who supplements his income with a lawn business. Look at other areas in the state that pay more money. Try to move up to higher positions in the dept that pay more money.You can not rely on other people to look out for you. I have been through this same situation with the state of NC after 17 years of service. If you feel that you are worth more just leave.

  • cara says:

    The Wilmington fire department has been very patient as they have waited for the city to increase their pay. The city council needs to take notice and give this department what they deserve. The police and fire dept’s should be paid at least the same. I do feel like the when we hired the new police chief he fought hard for his men to be paid more. I don’t think we have heard much from the new fire chief about his dept’s pay,so kudos to these men for taking into their own hands.I would feel much better as a citizen of this city,that if my house was on fire or my life was at risk,that the person who was saving my family was not worrying about feeding his own. GOD BLESS these men and give them what they deserve councilmen!!!

  • Sharon Smith says:

    Having recently looked through the City of Wilmington job website, I was shocked to see a posting for a fireman and the rate of pay was posted. Considering the pay for the upper echelon of the city, everyone responsible for this payscale should be embarrassed. What snobs you are to pay these firemen so litte while you relax in your huge homes that they are required to protect.
    Be ashamed!

  • Just Wondering says:

    The County has paid professional firefighters that are highly trained, will they be included?

  • Guesttaxpayertoo says:

    this ploy comes from this union comes up every year and the wives and mothers of these poor trodden civil servants come out to all the rallies and forums and plead poor and 911 and blah blah blah. Facts are these…fire firefighters are good men and women and deserve a living wage. Firefighters are not HEROS..true firefighters are professionals and as such do a professional job, no different that police, doctors, teachers, lawyers etc. They do not need to be placed on a pedestal. Firefighters in Wilmington, sans the chief are NOT 911 firefighters and to compare them is to dishonor the men and women of 911. Our WFD pay is an HR issue and an issue for our city to address, which it has..and to try ad populum crap with the comparisons like are in this letter which try and make firefighters martyrs or victims of priorities should embarass the rank and file and their families. grow up men. It’s time you all address your needs without the nanny of a union being both politic bully and heart string pullers and realize that what you do is important, but it is a part of what makes our city great…not the only part.

  • Jonathan Wrenn says:

    Chuck, this was a well written. Since you know me you know that while I have been around the fire service in New Hanover County for many years, you also know that I decided early on not to make a full time career of it (partly because of some of the things you identified above).

    That being said, I have watched the WFD grow and mature in many ways over the past 20 years. Rembering when folks like Robinson, Williams, Graftis, Smith (and many others) were buck private firefighters and to see them now as BCs and Captains managing the day to day emergencies for the citizens of Wilmington…… well it has made me a better person just for having known and worked with them.

    The task of trying to convey what was in your letter is certainly one that I don’t envy. Sometimes your success is your failure….being able to maintain an excellent ISO rating, deal with budget cuts, handle all of the needs of the citizens all while “doing more with less” unfortunately makes many decision makers complacent and well….lethargic. I hope that your words won’t fall on deaf ears. Places like Raleigh, Charlotte, Greensboro and other similar fire departments would give anything to grab up first class folks that Wilmington didn’t take care of. I would pay more in taxes without hesitation if I knew the NHC Fire folks would get paid as they should, I have to believe that citizens in Wilmington feel the same way.

  • Lora Smith says:

    I am very concerned about the financial compensation our city’s firefighters receive. It is ludicrous that they put their lives on the line to make less than $30,000 a year. We need to show our firefighters that we appreciate their altruism and get their salaries more on par with the state’s average. Perhaps instead of wasting our tax money on a superfluous baseball stadium, we should channel that money to the salaries of these men and women who pull us out of fires, save our belongings, and deliver lifesaving care when we have medical emergencies.

  • renoGuest says:

    Well
    You have got to be a fire chief or at the least hold one of those high paying union jobs, I have found that when you deal with a liberal you are talking to the wind ,the name calling comes out when they do not have a real answer and thats you. First off rescue squad is the southern name for the northern EMS all the same except to a liberal. I know when first responders started thats when i quit the fire department.The last time i called 911 i got some dirty farmer to administer emergency service to me i do expect at least a clean EMS person to administer care to me. Just because you do not agree with my view does not make me a idiot except to a freaked out liberal that has no answers to the question.
    post script:
    PLEASE COMMENT ON MY ISO LETTER
    Everyone would like to know why fire chiefs lie about ISO ratings just to get a so called fire fees out of people on fixed incomes just so the fire chief can have bragging rights to new equipment ,new buildings,but no pay for fire fighters? Please give me a answer to that so my idiot mind can understand .
    Watch out Wilmington this guy is either in the union or is a spokesperson for same.Watch out Wilmington fire fees are coming your way get ready they will be attached to your property tax.Let me give you a heads up they cant charge interest on fees.( All firefighters this is the type of guy that buys new toys and you suffer without a pay raise is this what you need )….Think about it …….Spoken by a idiot fireman.

  • QuietOne says:

    I find the lack of appropriate compensation for career firefighters in Wilmington to be disgraceful. The amount of training and commitment it takes to be a firefighter is enormous. What amazes me is that one would think that the incredibly low level of pay would result in a lesser quality of candidates applying for these jobs. It’s the exact opposite! These men and women are top notch. Think about how much someone must love their chosen career and the city to work for so little. It’s about time the citizens of Wilmington step up and demand better pay for these firefighters!

  • Rick Wilson says:

    I believe there are many “creative solutions” to bring the Firefighters salaries and benefits up to acceptable levels while minimizing the tax increase.

    Quit wasting money on studies and campaigns for nonsense like the tax payers funding a minor league baseball stadium for a billionaire.
    Quit funding studies for things that city staff should be able to complete.

    Quit selling and buying back parking decks at a tax payer loss for each transaction.

    Reduce management salaries to the level of those they manage. Example: If the workers are paid mid-level when compared to other local areas, management is paid at the same levels.

    Management does not receive any pay increases without those they manage receiving the same percentage. They also are subject to any cutbacks and reductions that are imposed on their workers. If the “belt has to be tightened” it starts at the top.

    Cut out all government waste and corruption.

    Stop tax payer funding of the Chamber of Commerce and other groups that do nothing other than draw 6 figure salaries for themselves. I believe a complete audit showing how all tax payer money is spent would identify many, many wasteful and unnecessary expenditures. This tax money could then be applied to departments that deserve it, aka the people that really work and provide a verifiable service to the community.

    If the above steps were taken then I believe whatever tax increase is necessary to bring the firefighters pay and benefits up to an acceptable level would be justified. The city government tried to sell a tax increase for a baseball stadium as only costing the average tax payer a “cup of coffee” per month………then I believe the Firefighters, the people that actually do something for our community, should be worth a tax increase (if necessary) of at least a cup of coffee per WEEK.

    One other consideration that will save money, the turnover rate of employees due to low salaries that causes excessively high training costs for replacements would be drastically reduced. This would also keep in place a much more experienced and well-coordinated workforce.

  • WtsGuest says:

    2 days a week…..u Havnt got a clue, try 240 hours a month! Do the research.

  • Firefighters Work says:

    Contrary to belief firefighters do not work only two days a week.

    Most weekly workers work just over 2000 hours a year. Firefighters work 2916 hours a year, over 900 hours than a normal worker. Yes, it 24 hours a day.

  • taxpayer says:

    I wouldn’t mind seeing these folks get a pay raise. While there are some who might comment about the fact that they work 2 days/week, that’s not the point.

    The City could have funded one heckuva a pay raise with all of the money the spent on stadium studies and continue to spend on other studies and consultants. I’ve often wondered why the City has all of their highly-paid staff who apparently don’t have the expertise in most areas which require the spending of MY money and YOUR money on consultants. If the staff can’t figure out a problem, then get rid of them and hire staff that can.

  • Surely You Jest says:

    Just to clarify; Firefighters(WFD Firefighters)do not work just two days a week. They work 24 hour shifts with a day off in between.
    The 40 hour a week employee works 2080 hours a year. They are off for 16 hours in a twenty four hour period.

    Firefighters on the hand, work 2400 hours a year.

  • Guest Reply says:

    “I’ve often wondered why the City has all of their highly-paid staff who apparently don’t have the expertise in most areas which require the spending of MY money and YOUR money on consultants”….

    Here’s why:

  • Beverly says:

    Usually three days and do you understand two 24 hour shifts mean 48 hours per week?

  • Guestk says:

    You said EXACTLY what I was thinking when reading your post!!! Thanks!!! It doesn’t make sense to me that so much money and the time of our leaders (which translates to dollars unaccounted for) was spent all in the name of a new stadium in Wilmington. The people had their say about that and ended up shooting it down after hundreds of thousands of OUR tax dollars were already spent. Seems we have no say however in compensating our community first responders who put their lives in potential danger every day to save our lives and our property. Shame on the warped values of our leaders at the cost of OUR hard earned tax dollars!!!!

  • Jay Barnes says:

    They may only work “2” days a week, they work 48 hrs a week.

  • Wilmingtonnative says:

    These men and women are away from their families too much! They miss holidays, birthdays, seeing they’re kids grow up. All to protect people just like you! They’re not asking to get rich. They’re asking to at least be equal. They MUST work second jobs just to live in this area. I hope your house never catches on fire or you or your family never has an emergency.

  • Lewis says:

    Brian have you actually sat down and done the math of what a 24 hour shift actually means? It means evey third day you are gone – period. Doesn’t matter if it is weekend, Christmas, ballgame, etc. A 24 hour shift means that you miss and give up 1 full year of your lives with your wife and children every three years. By the time your kids are 18 you have missed six years of their lives. By time you retire with 30 years of service, your wife has been without you for 10 of those years.

    We only sleep at the discretion of he citizens we protect. If we are needed for 24 hours, we are up and working 24 hours. I imagine you lay down at night expecting to get to sleep all night. Try spending 30 years having your sleep cycles trashed.

    As for working second jobs, your right – we are just like you. We like having groceries, paying for our kids to play sports or have hobbys, we like to occasionally go a vacation. I find it sad that this does not even come close to describing the sacrifice given every day for you in this state. but what is truly amazing is that one of those firefighters would not hesitate to step into a burning building and bring you out even if they knew how you felt about them.

  • Brian says:

    Wilmington firefighters, as well as most other firefighters work 24 hour shifts. They get to sleep on the job, and they only work a few days per week. Many work other FULL TIME jobs, or run their own businesses on the side, so they get two paychecks.

    It’s a pretty cushy job if you take a really hard look at it. And there’s no shortage of people lining up for the job openings.

  • SMBeez says:

    It is a sad state of affairs when it takes a publicized letter to possibly get a decent response from the city.
    God Bless our Firefighters!!!!
    They deserved to be well paid and have their much needed training and schooling provided for them!!!

  • Jonathan Wrenn says:

    Chuck, this was a well written. Since you know me you know that while I have been around the fire service in New Hanover County for many years, you also know that I decided early on not to make a full time career of it (partly because of some of the things you identified above).

    That being said, I have watched the WFD grow and mature in many ways over the past 20 years. Rembering when folks like Robinson, Williams, Graftis, Smith (and many others) were buck private firefighters and to see them now as BCs and Captains managing the day to day emergencies for the citizens of Wilmington…… well it has made me a better person just for having known and worked with them.

    The task of trying to convey what was in your letter is certainly one that I don’t envy. Sometimes your success is your failure….being able to maintain an excellent ISO rating, deal with budget cuts, handle all of the needs of the citizens all while “doing more with less” unfortunately makes many decision makers complacent and well….lethargic. I hope that your words won’t fall on deaf ears. Places like Raleigh, Charlotte, Greensboro and other similar fire departments would give anything to grab up first class folks that Wilmington didn’t take care of. I would pay more in taxes without hesitation if I knew the NHC Fire folks would get paid as they should, I have to believe that citizens in Wilmington feel the same way.

  • Guest9743 says:

    Yep, you’re right. It’s a sad state of affairs when people of this community are supporting a labor union….most have been complaining that labor unions were part if not all of the problem. If firefighters feel they aren’t earning enough money then maybe they need to find another job or get a second job, most people are aware of the pay scale/rate before accepting a job.

  • teabagGuest says:

    This is a right to work state. If you are not pleased with your amount of compensation please quit and find another job that will pay more.

  • PoorWFDwife says:

    Amen! My husband has been a loyal,devoted and underpaid Wilmington firefighter for 15 years. He has seen and heard most everything unimaginable, has seen children die, elderly suffer from abuse, home burned and lives destroyed. Each day he goes into work not knowing if he will come home to his wife and children. He does this job, 24 hour shifts, weekends and holidays because he has a passion for helping others. The pay for all of this is roughly $14.00 an hour. Thats for 15 years of service, countless certifications and low moral. I hope that city council will finally address this situation. Wilmington fire is simply a training ground then the younger recruits go else where for higher pay. At least make the pay comparable, middle of the road as such. Theinot asking for much, just equal pay.

  • Guest987345 says:

    Sounds like your husband should have found a different career a long time ago.

  • M.M. Hewett says:

    It is outrageous that the city officials expect these men and women to put their lives on the line each time an alarm sounds. As I have heard one 14 year firefighter say ” when I get on that truck ( to respond to a call) I know that no matter what kind of a terrible day I may be having the person on the other end of the call is having the worst day of their life. My focus is totally on what I am doing.”
    The dedication by these firefighters is amazing. Feeling good about what one does is great but it does not pay the bills.
    These professionals deserve great compensation but are willing to settle for “adequate”. They should not have to beg for that.
    God bless each and everyone of them.
    Shame on the city leaders.

  • Guest-of-the-day says:

    that they could accommodate this request without raising taxes by a review of executive compensation and bringing it more into line with comparable municipalities, similar to the review that New Brunswick County is now undertaking.

  • Local 51 says:

    It is a shame to see this where the firefighters have to beg to get a raise and others get it so easy.One case was the golf coarse mgr was going to leave and the city gave him a nice $5000.00 bonus to stay.Other situations are like why does the new fire chief need so many new management positions,like CHief of training,with several Captains working under him.Chief of communitee involvement and a public information Chief.And what I understand is the Chief is going to ask for a deputy Chiefs position.Maybe city council should look at how top heavy this department is compared to other city departments this size. It looks like this new Chief has a lot of people fooled by what he is doing.We have some great firefighters in the city department but don’t want to advance under this style of leadership.

  • Guest33 says:

    These guys work 24 hours on, 24 hours off, 24 hours on, 24 hours off, 24 hours on, then 4 days off. Many of us can’t even fathem what it would be like to work this kind of schedule. 24 hours at a time spent away from their families to keep all of us safe… Missing valuable moments on holidays with children… Getting woke up in the middle of the night to go to a fire or assist EMS in an emergency… GIVE THESE HEROS A RAISE!!!

  • Beach Bum says:

    Local 129…

    While you have my sympathy, you do not have my empathy. Everyone of you guys knew what you were signing up for when you filled out your applications. Most, if not all, have second and third jobs while the firefighting “gig” is used soley for the benefits package. Not to mention the wives, husbands, boyfriends and girlfriends that also work, bringing in additional salary.

    The firefighters of Wilmingon Local 129 should be thankful the city leaders and managers are not deactivating firehouses or shutting down companies, laying off firemen, to offset expenses. What amazes me is how North Carolina is a right to work state and the firemen that are associated with Local 129 or those who signed this letter are still gainfully employed.

    Maybe the money the city and county fire departments are spending to recieve “accredidation” would be better spent on managing the fire department instead of the “dog and pony” show called the fire department. Better yet, how about the city and county hire some firefighters and not a bunch of yard breathers who think darken up leather helmets is a “badge of honor.” Or maybe some investigators that are qualified and certified as investigators.

    Oh yeah, shouldn’t the hospital or police department be doing child safety seats? Since most people have babies in a hospital and the police are the only one’s with law enforcement capabilities. Was the city attorney or legal department even awake to miss that liability?

    Did you know the city and county fire chiefs have never worked a day as career firemen but are in charge of career fire departments?

  • Guestmarvin says:

    These firefighters put their lives on the line. The city should pay them what they deserve and quit funding useless projects like an unwanted baseball stadium!

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