Campbell River’s volunteer firefighters are getting a $2 an hour raise.
Wages for Campbell River auxiliaries, which are among the lowest in the province, will increase from $11.25 to $13.25 for firefighters while volunteer officers’ wages are going up from $11.50 to $13.50.
Fire Chief Ian Baikie said it works out to be a $25 monthly increase and $300 more a year based on an auxiliary firefighter’s normal workload of 150 hours annually. The raise sets a typical yearly wage for a volunteer firefighter at $1,987.50 a year. Baikie said he felt the increase was “really well-deserved” considering the work the members put in.
“They do so much for the community and I think it’s really important that we show some appreciation by moving them up a little bit,” Baikie said. “A look around the province finds we’re well behind.”
According to Baikie, most B.C. communities pay their volunteer firefighters between $15 to $22 per hour.
Baikie told city council at its budget planning meeting last week that he would like to eventually get Campbell River’s members closer to that mark.
“I didn’t want to bring it to you in a big chunk but I thought if we got on with it a bit we could move towards the provincial standard over time,” he said.
The increase will cost the city $15,340 in the 2013 budget, which translates to a $1.39 residential tax increase for the average assessed household, but councillors felt a raise was well worth it.
“Beyond the job that they do for almost nothing, the auxiliaries are definitely an important part of the firefighting service we have in our community,” Coun. Ryan Mennie said. “It’s an ongoing issue to find them and keep them. I know this is a small piece to helping with that.”
Baikie noted that Campbell River has a great deal of success in recruiting volunteers.
The city currently has 20 auxiliaries and is fully staffed at the No. 1 Fire Hall (downtown) while at the No. 2 Fire Hall (Willow Point) there are 31 auxiliaries, which exceeds the hall’s complement by one member.
“We’ve been recruiting intently for a number of years and we’ve been having great success with both maintaining our standards and maintaining our people,” Baikie said.
City Manager Andy Laidlaw said volunteers are key to the city as they help keep costs down for fire – a vital city service that takes up $4.6 million in the city’s 2013 base budget before the wage increase is factored in.
Coun. Andy Adams said council wanted to recognize the important role the firefighters play.
“This is helping those who help us,” Adams said. “They are certainly a key volunteer component of our community we just want to recognize.”