Firefighters Fighting for a Raise

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October 27, 2005
They get 20,000 calls a year and work more than 50, 60, sometimes even 70 hours a week. It’s why they say they’re just as deserving as deputies. News 12 is on your side with why firefighters want a bigger pay raise.

Firefighters are in the running for a four percent pay raise next year. But the Sheriff’s Office has already secured an eight percent raise for its employees. It’s why a special meeting was called Thursday afternoon.

Just days after hearing of an eight percent pay increase for sheriff’s deputies, Richmond County firefighters are asking, what about us?

“They deserve their money and they deserve a pay raise, they deserve more than eight percent. But we do, too,” said Sgt. Charles Masters.

It’s the first time Sergeant Masters can recall that one department is set to receive a salary increase twice as high as the other. After all, both are servants of public safety.

“We work together in the streets to make sure the safety is there for our community and certainly want to be treated the same across the board,” said Interim Fire Chief Howard Willis.

But while facing these firefighters in a private meeting, City Administrator Fred Russell hosed them down with the facts.

“It’s a very tight resource, it’s taxpayers’ dollars and you want to be as conservative as you can with that. On the other hand, you’ve got to pay your employees a livable wage and that needs to keep pace with reality,” Russell said.

A firefighter for just over a year, Mike Applebee is one of those employees.

“I’ve got three kids and twins on the way. I work probably eighty hours a week. I have a second job and I’m still struggling to make ends meet,” Applebee said.

“The separation between the two departments, fire and sheriff’s, at this time is unprecedented,” Masters said.

So with the support of fire stations county wide, they say they’ll continue their fight for additional funding, all while doing what they get paid to do.

The decision ultimately lies in the hands of county commissioners; we’ll see how they vote in November.