Study: Columbia firefighters dissatisfied with pay - wistv.com - Columbia, South Carolina |

Study: Columbia firefighters dissatisfied with pay

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COLUMBIA, SC (WIS) -

When flames flare up, the first person you want to see is the fire department, which is why the city of Columbia is doing all they can to make sure they have enough firefighters on the streets.

"I'm concerned about making sure we have as many boots on the ground working to keep our families safe in Columbia and Richland County," said Columbia Mayor Steve Benjamin.

While for the first time in 15 years the police department is fully staffed, the fire department continues to struggle.

"We're going to spend some time in this budgeting process, making sure that we devote the resources to making sure we recruit and retain the best men and women who want to continue to serve the people of this city," said Benjamin.

The city has given employees, including firefighters, a two percent increase in pay this year. However, a University of South Carolina study found 89 percent of firefighters were dissatisfied with their pay. According to the fire department's website, entry-level firefighters with no experience make $28,300. Still, Benjamin says other cities are "poaching" Columbia's ranks.

"It's difficult you're talking much smaller departments some that have different sources to deal with," said Benjamin.

Fire Chief Aubrey Jenkins has been tasked with coming up with several options for the city including grants.

"Hopefully we'll be able to add some more pay. It's a priority of mine, to add some more pay to the fire department budgets," said Benjamin.

In the USC study when firefighters were asked why current employees remain with the city, the majority said they want to help serve and protect the community, but when they were asked why they would consider leaving the overwhelming majority cited pay and the command staff.

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