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The Prescott Daily Courier | Prescott, Arizona

home : opinions : opinions August 01, 2014

7/28/2013 6:02:00 AM
Editorial: City's firefighters deserve more value
The Daily Courier

Perhaps most revealing in Friday's release of personnel files relating to the Granite Mountain Hotshots is a look into how bureaucracy impacts the bravest people and the most critical needs among us.

First responders, whether they wear firefighting boots or police uniforms, are elements of public government that we all support. That we all prioritize. That we're all willing to contribute financially to for the sake of our safety, our community, and our dedication to public service.

In other words, first-responder protection is not something we simply reduce to a call for smaller government. To nickel and dime these needs is repugnant.

This is not an emotional response to a tragic situation. This is a call to prioritize these systems of our community in order to save lives and property by using highly skilled men and women who live to serve under the harshest conditions at a moment's notice.

And that certainly goes for the so-called "seasonal worker" status, of which 13 of the 19 fallen members of the Granite Mountain Hotshot crew were defined. They are the ones who work for salaries low enough to make any bureaucrat pleased with the bottom line, and who are ineligible for health insurance or even for the same level of death benefits as other full-time firefighters. Speaking plainly, they are the ones who take the same risk without the same benefits.

They sign up to save lives and property, in the most dangerous of situations. It is up to us, our city and our government, to look out for their best interests as they hike into fires while looking out for ours.

We all agree that the salaries for the elite of elite firefighters is abysmally undervalued, given the risk - and the reward - of saving lives and structures.

Our hope is that as we move forward, our city's priorities are given a push in the right direction.

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Reader Comments

Posted: Tuesday, July 30, 2013
Article comment by: Man Fred

With the Southwest getting hotter and drier, and monsoon weather more and more unpredictable, maybe it's time to rethink the way fires are fought. Maybe we should stop expecting these young men and women to risk their lives protecting property.

Posted: Tuesday, July 30, 2013
Article comment by: John Citizen

And, now, time to move on.

Posted: Tuesday, July 30, 2013
Article comment by: Button Square Pants

I think the issue here is that those who risk their lives don't get the credit or the wage they deserve to begin with. They are under paid, given little to no credit unless a tragedy like this happens. The same applies to all of our local fire fighters & Law Enforcement... they get no credit, are under paid until another tragedy happens when finally everyone pitches in to help and recognize thier efforts.

This is what should be done... Pay them what they deserve for protecting our lives and property, not just compensate them when they die while in the line of duty. Give them credit for the job they do, not give them credit for what they've done after they've died while in the line of duty.

We all know that these people deserve a better wage than what they are getting, not everyone is going to agree that they deserve more, especially when a lot of people are hurting and are far worse off than those already in these positions. However, these are the creme of the crop, they have proven themselves to stand out above everyone else, therefore they have a job that should be well compensated.

Living a life that qualifies you to the standards required to be fit for duty, I think you have earned the right to earn a good wage, it's just too bad that our leaders on City and State levels don't see it that way, they see it that you are expected to do all of the above without the fair wage... it's an imoral way of doing business in my book.

Posted: Monday, July 29, 2013
Article comment by: my thought

Hotshots have been temporary and seasonal jobs in many jurisdictions across the country. Prescott's model is not unusual. It is an entry level position, so how much should it pay if we expect them to risk their life? That is a trick question because no one expects a public servant to give their life in the line of duty, especially the public servant. I think everyone should be paid an admirable wage, and know that their family will be provided for if they die. Life just isn't fair enough for all of us to enjoy the same benefits as those with government job. There are even people with government jobs who aren't able to enjoy the benefits.
To: the person who keeps talking about council members being over paid. You have no idea what or where you are talking about. They might have been paid well where you come from.

Posted: Monday, July 29, 2013
Article comment by: @ Ex Patriot

You have a point. Hotshots only risk their lives on those occasions that they respond to a fire. Police officers risk their lives everyday. Hotshots are paid about what they're worth but police officers are woefully underpaid. Thanks for having the guts to state what most fear to say.

Posted: Monday, July 29, 2013
Article comment by: We R all Firefighters

Time to move on!

Posted: Monday, July 29, 2013
Article comment by: Hooty Hoo

The wife of a hotshot (who wasn't killed) said her husband (NAU grad, hotshot 5 years) made $13/hr. I bet PFD firefighters make more, but can't quote a figure. BTW there's a webwite that discloses the salaries of all federal employees (by name not position).

Posted: Monday, July 29, 2013
Article comment by: Ex Patriot

If there is some logical progression from "hotshots die in wildfire" and "police officers are underpaid," I wish someone would explain it. Because I'm just not seeing it.

Posted: Monday, July 29, 2013
Article comment by: David Kerr

Voters deserve the numbers. Pay should be disclosed as it is for most federal employees and California state and local government employees. Without disclosing names, we should be able to see the amount in box 4 of the W-2 for all positions.

Even more important, we should see the annual pensions amounts for the last ten who retired after at least ten years of service in that agency.

Posted: Monday, July 29, 2013
Article comment by: Under Valued Employes

The city under this administration has consistently undervalued all its employees. While having money for open space, golf carts, road repair and a defunct golf course it holds back on providing staff a pay raise after five years. To what end? While every other agency in the region has thanked their staff, the city has thumbed their noses at its people. It's not a surprise to see an elite crew poorly paid. Yeah let's hold to that golf course longer, who cares if the citizens have quality service. Maybe this perception is wrong, if it is it is the failure to communicate by the administration. When the city reforms the Hot Shots lets do better than just enough! That would be noble and proper.

Posted: Sunday, July 28, 2013
Article comment by: An American

If these Heros are so mistreated and under valued, why are so many lined up to get in?

Never miss an opportunity to exploit a tragedy.

Posted: Sunday, July 28, 2013
Article comment by: Get rid of fringe benefits

Just pay straight wages and let workers decide what is important for them to purchase in terms of insurance, retirement funding, etc.

Posted: Sunday, July 28, 2013
Article comment by: Al Adab

Absolutely. Meanwhile three of the candidates for City Hall believe more expenditures for open space purchases should be the top priority even though little is for sale and that which is remains highly overpriced.Who will pay to thin the undergrowth on the open space or is it proposed that the City will follow BLM mandates and allow it to burn?

Meanwhile the City has watched as the state removed 1.2 million in shared revenue from the general fund and has dropped a half-million dollar pension fund requirement which the state once covered on the city. Faced with that and difficult business climate and the opposition of the open space proponents to business expansion and incentives where exactly do the advocates expect to find the money?

"Our hope is that as we move forward, our cities priorities are given a push in the right direction." You betcha, but somebody tell the candidates OK?

Posted: Sunday, July 28, 2013
Article comment by: Dear Editor

No, "we" do NOT "all agree." The problem is not that firefighters and police officers are underpaid. They make more than most of the people who pay their salaries, and in this neck of the woods, at least, their jobs are no more dangerous than most, either. The problem is that the elected officials are grossly, obscenely, OVER paid. They're the ones squandering our money. Stop electing them. And if first responders aren't happy with their pay, they are just as free as the rest of us to change jobs.

Posted: Sunday, July 28, 2013
Article comment by: Yav Pie Hills

Where can these documents be found. It's all rhetoric without the details.

Posted: Sunday, July 28, 2013
Article comment by: Beth C

It is a shame that we pay so little to those who put their lives on the line for us, or for those who teach our children, or the emergency personnel who tend to those who are in need of immediate help.

Taking care of those who take care of us is part of a civilized society.

Posted: Sunday, July 28, 2013
Article comment by: Art Sandoval

Fire Departments and Police are a part of Government! Are you actually suggesting privatization of these services? That doesn't work! Let's not promote your tea party ideas on the backs of heroes!!!!

Posted: Sunday, July 28, 2013
Article comment by: Remember The Alamo

Any statement that says "We all agree" or "We all support" etc. are never true. Ever.
I guess this Editorial is saying we should all pay more taxes. The reason we should pay more is what? Will that bring them back? We all pay taxes now. Tax money is notoriously wasted and poorly prioritized. More taxes is almost always a very poor idea.

Posted: Sunday, July 28, 2013
Article comment by: Really .......

And maybe things should be left just the way they are.

Posted: Sunday, July 28, 2013
Article comment by: The Truth

Absolutely, thank you to whomever wrote this letter. This is absolutely the truth. The City of Prescott should be ashamed and further ashamed that also their Police Officers are not earning what they should be. The Major and Town Manager are proud to host private companies like Trader Joe's into it's borders, but has failed at providing for the public servants that protect us. They should be recalled out of office.

Posted: Sunday, July 28, 2013
Article comment by: OM G

Another firefighter editorial. How long does the Courier want to keep selling papers on the firefighter/Yarnell tragedy?

And the first response? "Maybe the community could partially support them independent of government?" Just like the community already partially supports the police, people in the service, education, people in need, our parks, and I could go on and on. Maybe it's time the government actually supported something besides itself.

Posted: Sunday, July 28, 2013
Article comment by: Our Priorities ?

The chances of suffering anything from a heart attack to a snake bite to being involved in a car crash / accident, well heck, those odds are so bad, even if I could find someone to insure me against not having any of them happen to me, the cost is getting prohibiting. On the other hand, my chances of throwing away my life in search of drugs that I'll never use anyway, guess it comes down to which side of the toast I want buttered.

Posted: Sunday, July 28, 2013
Article comment by: Joe Smith

Maybe people should not build houses in areas where forest fires are a regular event, than firefighters would not have to try to save homes by putting their lives in danger !

Posted: Sunday, July 28, 2013
Article comment by: There You Go Again

Of course they are undervalued. Bureaucrats work to be sure THEY have benefits and sufficient salaries. It is ever so with big government. We are talking about folks (bureaucrats) that are unelected and unaccountable to the taxpayer. The solution? Smaller government and lower taxes, so the bureaucrats have less to corrupt. As for the firefighters, may be the community could partially support them independent of the government.

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