Humboldt County getting a deal on expensive fire services? Not by a long shot

A story regarding the mammoth salaries collected by fire fighters in San Ramon, CA, is making the rounds, and for good reason. The story that any public employee is being compensated to the level of $400,000k+ is jaw-dropping. Here’s the story:

Outcry over firefighters making up to $400,000

Now, yes, San Ramon is getting screwed way harder by their Fire District than anywhere in Humboldt is. (That’s relative, though, as the highest paid fire employee in Humboldt is still taking in over $200,000 as of 2015).

Unfortunately, the  fact that San Ramon’s fire fighters are approaching half a million dollars in annual compensation shouldn’t serve as a balm to our own afflictions with salary and pensions – it should serve as a dire warning of what could come to our own door step if our local governments and we tax payers don’t buckle down and put a stop to the out-of-control, and constantly rising, compensation provided to our own safety personnel. We give you the THC Guarantee that our fire districts are hungry for more, and are constantly looking for new ways to finagle more money out of our pockets.

However, if the impending labor contract negotiations with Humboldt Bay Fire are any indication, we need to heed the warning provided by San Ramon’s experience and we need to take heed quickly. We probably don’t have to remind how eager Austin Allison of the City Council of Eureka is to open the doors for the Fire Districts to pillage the City of Eureka’s already depleted coffers. You can refresh yourself on that here:

New Council Member Allison pledges to screw City of Eureka over, give fire fighters even more lucrative contracts

Hopefully, the City of Eureka will be brave enough to stand up to the Fire District before they, too, become a national headline of ridicule. (They do enough of that already.)

We’d also like to redirect you to our post from last week, which broke down the MOU for AFPD. We’ll go more in depth on HBF’s MOU soon enough, but suffice it to say that there’s not a ton of difference between the two. Check it:

The inner workings of Arcata Fire Protection District’s lucrative MOU, or, How You’re Getting Screwed

We thought there was some confusion about just how many hours are being worked by fire fighters under that MOU, so let’s simplify: fire fighters work 192 hours over a 24 day period, which works out to eight separate 24 hour shifts. Factor in that they’re sleeping, say, an average of 8 hours per shift, well…that means they’re only able to actually work for 128 hours every 2 1/2 weeks. That’s 128 hours out of every 576 hour shift cycle.

Not including the times when they’re eating, exercising, or polishing their hoses.

Additionally, dig this tidbit a friendly and knowledgeable THC commenter dropped on our MOU post which clarified how firefighters get paid overtime:

“As a past payroll clerk for a fire department, let me clarify the requirement for paid overtime. It is mandated in the Fair Labor Standards Act that firefighters be paid 1.5 times their regular rate of pay for any hours worked over 56 in a week. Departments can choose the length of work period ranging from 7 days to 28 days, but still have to pay for hours in excess of 56/week, This is from memory, so the days might be slightly different. Most departments have a provision to include equivilant pay for time worked in excess of 56 hours per week, as a regular part of their pay. Keep in mind that a firefighter normally works 3-4 24 hour shifts per week. That is 72-96 hours per week. Divide their normal salary by the hours and you will see that their hourly equivelant is not that high. Our department had a difficult time affording the overtime payments that are required by federal law. So don’t blame the employees, nor the agency. They are only doing what they have to do, and it is very lucrative for the firefighters. I am not saying it is right, but it is the law.”   P.S. Thanks, Old Timer!

Mandated by law it may be, but paying over time beyond 56 hours worked consistently is totally, totally f***ing us over, ladies and gents. Particularly if most fire fighters, as Old Timer says, are working 72-96 hours a week.


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1 Response to Humboldt County getting a deal on expensive fire services? Not by a long shot

  1. Rusty says:

    Why not just switch to three 8 hour shifts.
    Everybody’s fresh every 8 hours, no overtime except when your working fires.
    Do your polishing at home.


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