January 21, 2010

Warwick Beacon Looks At Firefighter Pay/Contracts

Marc Comtois

The Warwick Beacon's Russel Moore has a piece on the 32 Warwick Firefighters who make more than $100,000/year (salary and O.T.--benefits NOT included) .

The Beacon recently requested a list from the City Treasurer of the number of firefighters in Warwick earning $100,000 or more, and a brief description of how those firefighters are paid.

There are 217 firefighter positions in the city, with 200 of those positions filled. That means 32 members of the 200-member fire department make a total of $3.5 million before factoring in benefits like pension or health care insurance.

The list is comprised exclusively of the Fire Department’s ranking officers, including the Chief, Assistant Chief, Fire Marshal, Superintendent of Fire Alarms, Rescue Captain, EMS Coordinator, Battalion Chiefs, Captains, and Lieutenants. There were no privates on the list.

Meanwhile, John Howell has another piece on how the the firefighter's contract is too complicated to make cutting easy.
With the exception of schools, Fire is the costliest of city departments. The department’s operating budget is almost $20 million this year, seemingly making it the best place to start to look for savings.

But cutting costs isn’t simple.

Remarkably, even though closing a station would free up a minimum of 12 firefighters, it wouldn’t save on overtime payments. The most the city would pocket are utility costs, perhaps $20,000 to $30,000, if that much.

In addition, points out Warwick Fire Chief Kevin Sullivan, minimum response times would be increased heightening the risk to the residents and property owners of Warwick. Sullivan also raises the question of what station to close. His point is twofold. First, what neighborhood is going to accept a reduction in fire and rescue service – a choice that would certainly meet strong opposition from that ward’s council member and elected representatives? Second, Sullivan points out that Green Airport makes Warwick unique. Its placement in the geographic middle of the city makes it difficult to supplant or augment service from one area by another. It is like a chain where each link is connected to two others rather than a weave were links are interconnected on multiple sides.

Interesting point about the bi-furcated city that is Warwick. Basically, economies of scale may not translate as well due to the geography of the city. As for Chief Sullivan's warning about response times, well, you can spin it any way you want, but that (self-fulfilling) legitimization is why Warwick is exemplary of the rest of the state.
On average, [a RIPEC] report showed that Rhode Islanders spend about $6.24 on fire services for every $1,000 of personal income, or just under double the national average of $3.21 per $1,000 of income.
Look, where there's a will, there's a way. There just has to be a real will. Other states seem to do just fine at half the cost.

Comments, although monitored, are not necessarily representative of the views Anchor Rising's contributors or approved by them. We reserve the right to delete or modify comments for any reason.

If anybody knows where to get that RIPEC report I'd appreciate a link. I've heard but can't back up claims that the report is flawed in a number of different ways, one being RI EMS services are figured into the equation and the comparative group is not, another the cost represents the Total cost of fire protection in RI, meaning sprinkler systems, alarms and other additions, not just the actual fire department budgets.

Posted by: michael at January 21, 2010 4:33 PM

Michael, The report is here (PDF). Page 24 of the doc has the fire stats. The report explains:

Fire Protection comprises expenditures for the prevention, avoidance and suppression of fires and for the provision of ambulance, medical, rescue or auxiliary services when provided by fire protection agencies.
Your point is cogent about the totality of the expenditures not being just fire dep't budgets. As for the rest, the ems services were included everywhere else too (so long as the states reported it, it sounds like).

Posted by: Marc at January 21, 2010 4:54 PM

Response times? Gee, you have EG and NK station 3 right next door to Cowesett and Potowomut. If we're going to regionalize, let's start with a single state fire department, with efficient station location and manning policies (and yes, I know about the alarm conversion issue...).

Posted by: John at January 21, 2010 6:39 PM

Marc- by including EMS, you couldn't even compare Providence to Worcester- two very similar sized cities, but Worcester's EMS is provided by UMass Hospital, and Providence's by the Fire Department.

So right there, the best comparison in New England is already flawed. Never mind trying to compare cities in RI to somewhere at the other end of the country, which is basically what the RIPEC study does.

If we're going to regionalize, let's start with a single state fire department, with efficient station location

Because we have so much room to build new stations around here? Where's the money coming from?

Posted by: EMT at January 21, 2010 7:50 PM


"Where's the money going to come from?"

Considering all those firefighters are making over $100k, good question. Where is the money going to come from?

People are still not getting it.

Posted by: Robespierre at January 21, 2010 9:42 PM


I would try to use a little common sense when looking at numbers such as the ones showing RI fire protection being double the national average. It does'nt sound right and I'll bet a day's pay that they are not. Repeating a lie over and over does not change the lie. Go look at the accounting numbers for let's say Enron before their collaspe and then look at unbelievable numbers like these and use your head. I have heard that pension costs are also figured into the RI numbers but not in others which would change those comparisons

Posted by: Phil at January 22, 2010 7:24 AM

Boston, worcester, New Bedford, Fall River, Springfiel,Lynn, Chelsea,Quincy,
Dedham,Everett....Just to name a few.these are all cities and towns in mass that don't provide ems within their Fire Dept. (even if it says fire dept on the abmulance)Im not even going to touch western mass...These are pretty big places with big budgets that didn't factor ems into the study...so the study as it compares to RI is flawed...

Posted by: Dave at January 22, 2010 8:02 AM

I also left out Brockton,Plymouth,Braintree,Taunton, Carver,so if none of these departments sent in figures including ems which they can't since they don't provide it, were obviously not getting the same info that the ri dept provided.

Posted by: Dave at January 22, 2010 8:18 AM

[[[ Considering all those firefighters are making over $100k, good question. Where is the money going to come from?

People are still not getting it.

Posted by Robespierre ]]]

Another statement thrown out there enough times that it has the "perception" of being "fact".

The FACT is that there were/are only a handfull of firefighters making over 100K p/year compared to the number of FF's in the state...and those that have/do make that much are working enormous amounts of overtime. Overtime which is primarily the result in the cities/towns deciding that it's cheaper to pay overtime than to hire additional firefighters when other firefighters retire.

Robespierre (and many others out there) are just not getting it.

Posted by: Tom Kenney at January 24, 2010 12:58 PM

New York city Firefighters do not make what Warwick Firefighters make.

We do not have 20, 30, 50 100 story buildings here. I'm not saying they are less skilled, but there is a difference.

Posted by: Patrick at February 20, 2010 9:42 AM

You're right. FDNY firefighters do not make what Warwick firefighters make. After 5 years, privates in the FDNY make 99k (by the numbers on your own link) for 42 hours of work. No Warwick private even made the 100k list and the Lts. Rescue Lts. Capt. and Rescue Capts. all worked enormous amounts of ot somewhere in the range of 60-70hrs a week to earn 100k plus. They are essentially working the man hours of 2 men at the cost benefits for one. Thus, saving the city money.

Posted by: TheDeal at September 27, 2010 6:21 PM

It just blows my mind how New Englanders think. You people are actually going to sit here and bash on the money the people who show up in your worst hour of life to save you get ? Call me crazy, but as a college student on the outside of the argument I think this is rediculous. These guys work hard and in my opinion deserve to be paid more than what they get today. How's this we cut the fire departments and you in your nice warm house with your little 8-6 accounting job go drag someone out of a burning building or perform CPR on a little kid who's heart stopped during football practice. This makes me sick, next you people are going to suggest police get a pay cut. How's this cut the pay of our politicians and state works Minus police and fire because I can't see a state I want to live in without the best possible people in those jobs. If you cut the pay of them, well frankly the wrong people will take those jobs. Just like if doctors didn't get paid well, most of those people in college would choose a different major. Stop being pathetic lets be American. Stop complaining about a hard mans work and complain about boosting out economy in a non outrageous way.

Posted by: Dave at January 27, 2012 1:53 PM
Post a comment

Remember personal info?

Important note: The text "http:" cannot appear anywhere in your comment.