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La. firefighters protest pay, low staffing

Lake Charles officials said that raises were approved recently; each firefighter also earns $6,000 in annual supplemental pay in addition to the $11.17 per hour rate


Photo/IAFF Firefighters LOCAL 561

By Leila Merrill

LAKE CHARLES, La. — Members of Firefighters Local Union 561 picketed Monday morning in front of city hall over low pay, and publicly discussed their staffing shortage and stress levels, KPLC reported.

Firefighters said that working in trucks without air conditioning and working long shifts in a short-handed department are affecting them.

“These men and women of the fire department are providing a service to the public, and we know that it’s a service. We know that we were not going to get rich doing this job, but we do believe that we should be able to have a livable wage. $11.17 an hour is not a livable wage, especially not in this economy,” Local 561 liaison Jared Chandler said.

“We are the busiest department with the most fires and the highest risk and we are the lowest paid,” Chandler said.

“The last two weeks I’ve been home three days because of the shortages,” said Firefighter Zack Pumpelly. “I have three kids, and they would love to see their father more than they get to.”

The City of Lake Charles also told the news outlet that the hourly pay of $11.17 does not include $6,000 in supplemental pay each firefighter earns annually.

The city also said that a first-year firefighter earned $43,397 last year, and that a Firefighter First Class (years 2-3) was paid $68,098.

“The City Council just passed an ordinance that approved a three percent pay increase next year Jan. 1, the following year of two percent, in the following year two percent. That’s an addition to the two percent longevity. So if you look over the next three years out into the future, the employees within the fire department know they’re going to receive, including longevity, a 13 percent pay increase,” said city administrator John Cardone.

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