Lake Charles firefighters protest downtown, ask for better pay

Published: Jul. 25, 2022 at 9:50 AM CDT|Updated: Jul. 25, 2022 at 9:35 PM CDT
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Lake Charles, LA (KPLC) - Lake Charles firefighters say they work day in and day out to save lives, but feel underpaid and claim their lives are at risk.

Firefighters protested in front of City Hall Monday morning, asking for better pay.

Union Local 561 for the Lake Charles Fire Department picketed at the intersection of Ryan and Pujo Street, just down the street from City Hall.

Those with the union say trucks without Air conditioning and longer shifts making up for a short-staffed department are just not worth the wage they’re paid.

“These man and women of the fire department are providing a service to the public and we know that it’s a service. We know that we were not going to get rich doing this job, but we do believe that we should be able to have a livable wage. $11.17 an hour is not a livable wage, especially not in this economy,” Local 561 liaison Jared Chandler said.

In protest, firefighters took their frustration to the streets to inform the public of things they said they’ve been struggling with in private.

“The last two weeks I’ve been home three days because of the shortages, I have three kids and they would love to see their father more than they get to, but due to nobody wanting to work here due to how low we get paid were forced to stay here,” firefighter Zack Pumpelly said.

Their frustrations are growing.

“We are the busiest department with the most fires and the highest risk and we are the lowest paid,” Chandler said.

City officials said they are working to come to an understanding with firefighters and correct some of the issues that exist within the department.

“The City Council just passed an ordinance that approved a three percent pay increase next year Jan. 1, the following year of two percent, in the following year two percent. That’s an addition to the two percent longevity. So if you look over the next three years out into the future, the employees within the fire department know they’re going to receive, including longevity, a 13 percent pay increase,” city administrator John Cardone said.

As of right now both sides are hoping to see eye to eye soon.

In response to a public records request, the City of Lake Charles provided 7News with the average take home pay for LCFD firefighters in years one through three of service:

Average by Rank
Firefighter (Year 1)$53,295$43,397
Firefighter First Class (Years 2-3)$62,763$68,098

The City of Lake Charles also said the $11.17 per hour pay does not include an additional $6,000 in supplemental pay firefighters make annually.

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