Spartanburg firefighters plan community walk to advocate for higher pay raise

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SPARTANBURG, S.C. (WSPA) – Spartanburg City firefighters are planning to take to the streets on Saturday, ahead of city council’s meeting Monday night, to fight for better pay raises.

Spartanburg City Council will hear the first reading of the 2021-2022 budget on Monday. That budget includes an adjustment to the fire department’s pay scale.

“It’s a safety issue for citizens, it’s a safety issue for businesses, for commerce, for visitors coming there, because everybody is at risk when you operate like this,” Vice President of the Professional Firefighters Association of South Carolina William Pesature said.

The City’s proposal would provide a raise for every firefighter–with an average raise of around $5,400–which is about a 14% increase.

Pesature told 7 News that’s less than 60% of what the Spartanburg Fire Chief has asked for and said it’s just not enough.

“If you are in a bad situation and you need help, do you want us to come and give you 100% of our help or just 60% of our help? Whether it’s a medical call, a fire call, whatever it is. As a citizen, you’re hoping you get 100% because you want the best,” Pesature said. “And that’s what this will do. The Chief is asking for this for a reason.”

Pesature said the amount the Chief has requested will help fix the department’s retention issues.

“He’s trying to catch up and build a strong department of people who stay,” he said.

Pesature told 7 News the last time merit raises were issued for the department was 15 years ago.

Because of this, Pesature said, Spartanburg’s firefighters are leaving and going to better-paying jobs.

“61% of the fire department has 5 years or less of service,” Pesature said. “Spartanburg has lost over a quarter of their staff since January. That’s a lot.”

He said the money it takes to train new firefighters is expensive and, with turnover as high as it is, this is a recurring and wasteful cost for taxpayers.

“Now, you, as a citizen of Spartanburg, have to pay it again for the next person who comes in, the next replacement,” he said.

Pesature said better pay will make people will stay, and he said experience, in his profession, is priceless.

“We’re coming there on possibly the worst day of your life, and you want the most experienced, trained people to do that,” he said.

The Spartanburg City Firefighters Association plans to take to the streets around 10:00 a.m. Saturday. They’ll be going door to door in Hampton Heights and Converse Heights to speak with residents and to advocate for the fire chief’s proposal.

County Council’s meeting will be at 5:30 Monday night at the C.C. Woodson Recreation Center on Bomar Avenue.

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