Trending Topics

Calif. council unanimously approves 21% pay increase for firefighters

Modesto officials increased the amount of annual raises and other financial benefits


Modesto fire apparatus at an incident.

Modesto Fire Department/Facebook

By Kevin Valine
The Modesto Bee

MODESTO, Calif. — Modesto’s firefighters are getting raises totaling 21% over the next four years, as well as other increases to their pay in a labor agreement unanimously approved by the City Council last week.

The raises and other increases also apply to the Fire Department’s sworn managers, who are not represented by the Modesto City Fire Fighters Association . The agreement does not apply to the department’s civilian employees.

The total cost of the raises and other increases is nearly $28.5 million over the four years and largely will come from Modesto’s general fund. But some of the cost will be paid by the agencies that contract with Modesto for fire protection, according to a city report. Those agencies include Ceres, Turlock and Salida.

Besides the four annual raises, the labor agreement includes 4% additional pay for bilingual firefighters, additional pay incentives for having certain certifications and changes to the longevity incentives.

For instance, a firefighter will receive a 2.5% longevity incentive after six years of service compared to 2% after 10 years under the previous labor agreement. The new agreement calls for longevity pay to top out at 8% after 24 years of service.

The city report and staff presentation at the June 4 City Council meeting did not list what firefighters earn. But the California State Controller’s government compensation website provides some detail for 2022, the site’s most recent year.

It shows the pay ranges were $77,110 to $93,737 for firefighters, $85,118 to $103,463 for fire engineers and $98,717 to $119,974 for fire captains, but the actual pay often was significantly higher because of overtime, incentives and other forms of pay.

For instance, a little more than 100 firefighters, engineers and captains earned more than $150,000 in 2022 in total pay, with about three dozen of them earning more than $200,000, according to the website. This does not include the cost of their benefits.

The Fire Department is allocated 216 sworn firefighters, but that includes the fire chief, deputy chiefs, battalion chiefs and other managers.

Several council members lauded firefighters for their service to the community and one also thanked them for their support of Measure H, the 1% sales tax increase that voters approved in November 2022.

“I just want to thank the men and women of the Modesto firefighting team because on a daily basis they put themselves in harm’s way for the protection of structures and lives ...,” Councilwoman Rosa Escutia-Braaton said. "... In addition to that, when we needed them for Measure H, they were there.”

Measure H is expected to bring in $42.8 million to the city’s roughly $223 million general fund during the city’s 2024-25 budget year, which starts July 1.

Modesto officials have said the tax increase has allowed the city to make improvements in its parks, urban forest, public safety and other essential services. Measure H also has allowed Modesto to increase employee pay under what city officials say is the need to provide competitive compensation to attract and keep good employees.

The City Council a year ago approved labor agreements for its other employees that will cost the city $92.3 million over four years, with about $51 million of that coming from the general fund.

The agreements call for the city’s civilian employees to receive pay increases totaling 13% over the four years, along with other enhancements. The city’s police officers will receive pay increases totaling 17%, as well as other enhancements over the four years.

The pay increases and other incentives also apply to employees not represented by the unions. So City Manager Joe Lopez and his department directors and Police Chief Brandon Gillespie and his captains also are receiving the increases.

(c)2024 The Modesto Bee (Modesto, Calif.)
Visit The Modesto Bee (Modesto, Calif.) at
Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.

Additional What Firefighters Want Resources
FireRescue1’s 2023 state-of-the-industry survey revealed some alarming statistics related to respondents’ feelings about the job. Download your copy to learn critical insights into what is driving the perfect storm of stress among many firefighters.
Highlighting the most eye-opening results from the annual state-of-the-industry survey