WILMINGTON -- The City of Wilmington will soon be adding more than a dozen new firefighters to its force, but first the men and women have to go through months of rigorous training. That training started Tuesday in the classroom. But in the weeks to come, the rookie firefighters will have to endure much more -- for little money. Seventeen people in all are joining the Wilmington Fire Department this year -- almost half a dozen more than years past. The reason this year's class is so big is because the city budget allowed the fire department to over-hire and fire chiefs are happy to see so many new recruits. Wilmington Fire Department Chief Chris Nelson said, "It's kind of surprising, some of them want it for a career, a lot of them want to help people." Patrick Farwell quit his job as a cook to become a firefighter because of the rewards the job brings. "I just want to make a difference in someone's life everyday," he said. Ashlin Bass joined the WFD for the same reasons. Bass said, "I've been a volunteer firefighter for the past four years and i just realized the respect and gratitude from people in the city and i like that feeling." While the emotional rewards are there, the pay is not. Many Wilmington firefighters are trying to talk the City into giving employees more money. The men and women in this classroom will have a starting salary in the mid-twenty-thousands. "It's more rewarding than my other job so it pays in different ways, I guess." "We explain to them that there is a pay study going on and that could change but other than that we don't have any answers for them." The City is conducting the pay study to see if all city employees are getting paid the appropriate salary. According to Chief Hill at the Wilmington Fire Department, his employees make between 30 and 40 percent less than firefighters in comparable cities.
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