CAL Fire Firefighters Demand Pay Raise

Several hundred CAL Fire firefighters are protesting at the Capitol, demanding a salary raise.

“When you see our firefighters working 20 to 30 days without being allowed to go home because the state has not staffed their equipment appropriately, to allow firefighters to go home for a couple of days to see their families, then that does take a toll on the families and the firefighter,” Mike Lopez, CAL Fire Local 2881 president, said.

Lopez added that employee morale is at the lowest he’s seen in 26 years and that CAL Fire personnel make 30 to 90 percent less than local departments, even though training and responsibilities are roughly the same.

“I think a lot of firefighters who chose [wonder] why would I want to get paid less when I can go to a city department and have some days off to enjoy life and not work all summer long,” Steve Mueller, CAL Fire firefighter, said.

Lopez says more firefighters are leaving for local departments because they would be working a third less, for a third more pay.

The union also has an issue with salary compression — meaning there’s little space between lower and upper job pay. With this current salary structure, entry level firefighters could surpass supervisors in salary within three years. Lopez says this leaves little incentive to be promoted and take on more responsibilities.

“That is where the state hasn’t recognized that to be a supervisor who is responsible for millions and millions of dollars of equipment and personnel, to not be recognized by pay, that is very detrimental to the department,” Lopez said.

ABC 10 reached out to CAL Fire administrators, who acknowledge conditions for fire crews are becoming more difficult with the drought. Longer and drier conditions and bark beetle infestation are forcing crews to work harder.

Brian Ferguson with the Department of General Services released this statement:

“Our state firefighters are everyday heroes and are valued civil servants. However, when considering compensation the state must balance the needs of many different bargaining units and the overall state budget.”

Administrators have declined to comment on current negotiations with CAL Fire Local 2881.

Local firefighters from across the state also attended Monday’s protest to show support and solidarity.


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