There is still a lot of talk about how public employees in general, and firefighters in particular, are overpaid. I have touched on this in the past. This talk often mentions how firefighters make large amounts of money. While it is true that there are firefighters in Central Florida that make $48,000 a year to start, let’s look beyond the surface to see just how we arrive at that amount.
A firefighter who works a 24 on/48 off schedule works 2912 hours per year, which averages out to a 56 hour work week. According to Federal law (the FLSA) that firefighter gets overtime for all hours over 53 in a week. So, this overtime premium adds 156 hours to his pay, meaning that the firefighter is paid for 3,068 hours. If we divide the firefighter’s $48,000 annual salary by that number, we see that the hourly rate for this firefighter works out to $15.64.
Now let’s look and see what a firefighter working for a private company works out to. A private employee gets overtime at 40 hours. This means that a 24/48 schedule results in an overtime premium of 832 hours, which means the private firefighter receives 3,744 hours of pay per year. Paying that firefighter even $14.50 an hour would mean that he would make $54,288 a year.
A paramedic with no fire training starts at an average of $14 an hour in the Orlando area. Some jobs pay more (hospitals) and some pay less (theme parks). My department currently starts firefighters at about $40,000 a year ($13 an hour), but they must be Paramedics to get that rate of pay.
Every year for the last 10 years, we have had our pay and/or benefits cut. In my opinion, that is why we are seeing a serious decline in the quality of our people. This year, my department is talking about severe cuts to our pension plan, and is making deep cuts to our other benefits, including health.
I am considering leaving the EMS field to pursue other endeavors. Maybe I can get my master’s degree and go be a Physicians Assistant.