Readers React: L.A. County firefighters are indispensable. They’ve earned every penny they’re paid
To the editor: Gone, apparently, are the days when firefighters were regarded as heroes for risking their lives and spending so much time away from their families. Now, with the Los Angeles Times’ investigation of higher overtime costs at the Los Angeles County Fire Department, we’re asking, “We paid them how much?”
Firefighters showed the world how valuable they are on Sept. 11, 2001, and more recently in Santa Rosa, Ventura and Santa Barbara counties. Shame on the penny-pinchers.
Of course there are more injuries, requiring other firefighters to fill in for their colleagues by working overtime — after all, there have been an unprecedented number of fires recently. Firefighters are always there for us; all we should say to them is thank you.
Mary Temple, San Gabriel
To the editor: The extremely high pay for firefighters who work overtime amounts to common thievery. Overtime should be an exception and permitted only under emergency conditions that can be justified to a civilian oversight board.
The egregious examples cited by The Times should result in several forced retirements. These people degrade the reputation of many hard-working firefighters.
William Bergmann, Hollywood
To the editor: For years, it has been assumed that it is less expensive for fire departments to hire overtime personnel to fill vacant positions than it is to hire new people.
The overtime personnel are paid at time and one-half, but their benefits are already paid. Hiring new personnel requires that they be paid a salary plus benefits, costing much more than paying someone who already has benefits.
The department has a minimum number of people on duty each day. The shifts of employees who are taking paid time off are filled by personnel working overtime. In L.A. County, hiring has not kept pace with retirements, so a great deal of overtime is needed.
I understand that the local firefighters union has been trying to get the county to hire more personnel for years. The administration needs to be questioned about why it has not hired enough firefighters.
Mike Reardon, Fallbrook
The writer is a retired Los Angeles County Fire Department captain.
To the editor: Excellent job by The Times in reporting the exorbitant overtime pay for some L.A. County firefighters.
The public continues to be told that restricted budgets and very selective hiring hinder adequate staffing, but looking at those overtime statistics, it’s easy to conclude that poor scheduling and padding of salaries are at least partly to blame.
Also, since when does a manager get overtime pay in any business?
David Shannon, San Diego
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