Atlanta city councilman warns city will lose firefighters if pay doesn't increase

An Atlanta City Council member warns the city will lose more firefighters if it fails to keep a pledge to the first responders to dramatically increase pay

Currently, the top pay for a city firefighter is $55,000. That is significantly behind the local market. Mayor Andre Dickens said a pay increase for many firefighters in the city was written into his first budget.

When Atlanta Fire Chief Roderick Smith detailed his budget, Atlanta City Council member Dustin Hillis found the top pay to be at least $6,000 below the annual hike firefighters are expecting. 

Due to low manpower, the city has had to close temporarily some stations. 

The chief responded that the overall cash pot for salaries at just over $15 million had not been trimmed. 

His pay scale takes into account fire managers who are also behind the market.

Councilwoman Mary Norwood asked the chief to take a fresh look and come back with a figure that will upgrade firefighters at all levels. 

Firefighters in Atlanta say they are pulling double shifts — working 48 hours straight — in order to keep all the firehouses open.

Union President Nate Bailey says staffing has gotten "dangerously low." At busy stations, firefighters are getting little sleep, and he says that can impact performance. Bailey said a number of the suburban fire departments pay their veteran firefighters more than $70,000 annually.