Low pay, low retention worrying Lynchburg Firefighters Union

By Shayne Dwyer - Reporter

LYNCHBURG, Va. - The Lynchburg Firefighters Union is afraid of what could happen if pay stays where it is and people keep leaving.

Stations do have the minimum required staffing, but they say it's not enough. That's why they're lobbying for pay increases.

In Lynchburg, all of the fire shifts are still being covered and none of the apparatus has been taken out of service.

But the firefighters association says it is worried about a disturbing trend it's seeing, which is people leaving the department to go work at other departments and they say it's strictly because of pay.

The men and women of the Lynchburg Fire Department are ready to respond. But this time, they want the city to respond to them.

"There's been no significant raises whatsoever in at least 10, 12 years. That's put us behind the police department significantly," said Jamie Maxwell, president of the Lynchburg Firefighters Association.

That's why you'll start to see yellow signs around town. The union wants better pay, and it says firefighters are quitting to get it elsewhere.

"In the last two months, we lost four people, two last week alone, one the week before that, and about three or four before that we lost one," Maxwell said. "By July 1, we're set to lose another three people."

Mandatory overtime is already happening and it's a fine line to when that does more harm than good. The city continues to grow and vacancies compound the problem.

"No, we're not matching population growth; we haven't added positions since I've been here and I've been here now for 12 years," Maxwell said. "There's been no growth in the fire department."

Firefighters are concerned about the tone this trend could set going forward. They say they don't want residents to suffer, but they also know their worth.

"It's a significant amount of raise. We're talking about a 10, 15 percent raise for everybody across the board," Maxwell said. "That's just to get us with pay parity to the police department. Of course, we have different jobs. It's apples to oranges, but we try to keep parity with them."

The Firefighters Association is asking people in Lynchburg to speak up and reach out to their city officials to help them advocate for their situation.

10 News has reached out to the city for a statement and is hoping to receive one on Tuesday.

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