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Salary, Wages, Pay: Firefighting Occupations




Median hourly earnings of firefighters were $17.42 in 2002. The middle 50 percent earned between $12.53 and $22.96. The lowest 10 percent earned less than $8.51, and the highest 10 percent earned more than $28.22. Median hourly earnings were $17.92 in local government, $15.96 in the Federal Government, and $13.58 in State government.

Median annual earnings of first-line supervisors/managers of firefighting and prevention workers were $55,450 in 2002. The middle 50 percent earned between $43,920 and $68,480. The lowest 10 percent earned less than $34,190, and the highest 10 percent earned more than $84,730. First-line supervisors/managers of firefighting and prevention workers employed in local government earned about $56,390 a year in 2002.

Median annual earnings of fire inspectors were $44,250 in 2002. The middle 50 percent earned between $33,880 and $56,100 a year. The lowest 10 percent earned less than $26,350, and the highest 10 percent earned more than $69,060. Fire inspectors and investigators employed in local government earned about $46,820 a year.

According to the International City-County Management Association, average salaries in 2002 for sworn full-time positions were as follows:

  Minimum
annual base
salary
Maximum
annual base
salary
Fire chief $64,134 $82,225
Deputy chief 56,522 72,152
Assistant fire chief 55,645 69,036
Battalion chief 54,935 68,673
Fire captain 45,383 54,463
Fire lieutenant 41,800 49,404
Fire prevention/code inspector 40,387 51,531
Engineer 38,656 48,678

Firefighters who average more than a certain number of hours a week are required to be paid overtime. The hours threshold is determined by the department during the firefighter’s work period, which ranges from 7 to 28 days. Firefighters often earn overtime for working extra shifts to maintain minimum staffing levels or for special emergencies.

Firefighters receive benefits that usually include medical and liability insurance, vacation and sick leave, and some paid holidays. Almost all fire departments provide protective clothing (helmets, boots, and coats) and breathing apparatus, and many also provide dress uniforms. Firefighters are generally covered by pension plans, often providing retirement at half pay after 25 years of service or if disabled in the line of duty.