Officials plan to boost Detroit firefighter pay

Ian Thibodeau
The Detroit News

All Detroit firefighters licensed as medical first responders will receive a pay raise, city officials announced Friday.

Mayor Mike Duggan joined Fire Commissioner Eric Jones and Mike Nevin, president of the Detroit Fire Fighters Association, to announce the 4 percent across-the-board wage increase they called overdue and much-needed.

“This little bump here is what we needed ... because we suffered after the bankruptcy,” Nevin said.

The increase is in addition to 2.5 percent raises previously negotiated for 2016, 2017 and 2018. Firefighters will also get 3 percent raises in 2019 and 2020.

Wages in the fire department were cut by 20 percent during Detroit’s municipal bankruptcy.

Nevin said the median salary for a Detroit firefighter is currently $51,000.

The raise augments the firefighters’ 2014 contract, which requires all members of the firefighters’ union be offered medical first-response training. Jones and Nevin said all 892 Detroit firefighters will have received the training by the end of 2016.

Firefighters will get their raises the first month after their additional training is finished. Jones said Friday that 411 firefighters are currently certified as medical first responders.

The certification allows fire fighters to administer pre-hospital care when responding to emergencies. This more effectively supplements Detroit Emergency Medical Services, as it doubles the city’s available emergency medical units on the street.

Firefighters previously could only respond to fires in Detroit.

Jones said the city currently runs 21 EMS units during the day. With firefighters receiving additional certification, the city has added the 26 fire rigs they run daily to the pool, decreasing overall EMS response times, which hovered around 17 minutes on average a few years ago.

Nevin said Friday that DFD response times are averaging 7 minutes and 30 seconds. EMS is below the 8-minute national average.

Jones said the department plans to hire 60 new firefighters in 2017

Duggan said the raise “isn’t a gift. This is something the firefighters have earned.”

The fire department raise agreement amends their contract. If ratified by the firefighters’ union, the contract will have to be approved by City Council so qualified firefighters will see their raises by Aug. 1.

Both the mayor and Nevin repeated that Detroit firefighters fight more fires and earn less money than firefighters in surrounding cities.

The raises don’t quite level the playing field, Nevin said, but it moves things in the right direction.

Compared to mid-year counts from 2014 and 2015, the amount of building fires in Detroit is down. There were 2,324 fires by July in 2014. There have been 1,717 this year.

Duggan attributed the drop to the city’s building demolition push.

“We’re still fighting a tremendous amount of fires,” Nevin said.

The raise follows raise increases for the Detroit Police Department. Duggan said Friday Detroit EMS is next in line.

ithibodeau@detroitnews.com

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Twitter: @Ian_Thibodeau