Why everyone should want to be a San Diego fire fighter
A couple years back, the San Diego Fire Department labor union was trying to claim that the city was paying too little to draw quality applicants, nor enough to retain the current work force. This assertion turned out to be untrue (you are doubtless shocked and surprised by this revelation).
To counter that campaign, San Diego Tax Fighters paid to post SD FD fire fighter recruiting ads on Craig's List websites in a number of cities around the country. Not only did we post it on Craig's List in San Diego, Bakersfield, Los Angeles, Orange County, San Francisco and Sacramento – we also paid to put the ad on the New York city and Chicago websites.
Because the applications we generated went directly to the city, we’ll never know exactly what effect these ads had. What we DO know is that there has been no further talk about a shortage of quality applicants.
In addition to the Craigs List paid ads, we sent a very similar recruiting ad to the actual fire departments of a number of big cities around the nation. The goal was to get trained, experienced firefighters (especially from cold climes) to apply in sunny San Diego.
Here’s what we sent to the fire departments – which is a fun read and also surprisingly informative. If you or a relative wants to learn more about the joys of becoming a union firefighter, this piece will be quite helpful, I suspect.
TO: Fire fighter labor unions nationwide (2007)
Please post and circulate the following ad to your membership. We need professional, experienced union fire fighters here in the city of San Diego, California.
Distributing this ad is in your union’s best interest. The more of your fire fighters who decide to transfer to another fire department, the better your case will be for better pay, pensions and health care for your city fire fighters.
ATTENTION: Experienced fire fighters!
Tired of cold winters and hot, humid summers?
We desperately need professional, experienced union fire fighters here in sunny San Diego – the best climate in the Western Hemisphere. No cold, no ice, no snow, no humidity, no wind and no bugs. In addition, the pay and benefits are first rate.
Apply NOW for the best damn job in the world!
Work 10 days a month for high pay!
Counting abundantly available overtime, earn up to $150,000 or more!
No SDFD employee has died on the job since 1978!
Retire with full benefits as early as age 50 with up to 90% of your highest salary!
For pension purposes, “salary” includes over a dozen extra categories of special pay – such as bilingual, EMT certified, paramedic, etc. Normally you qualify for at least two or three of these categories!
Reside pretty much where you want – you don’t need to live in or near San Diego! Many San Diego fire fighters live 80+ miles away. Take your sweet time coming in during fire emergencies – no penalty.
City’s liberal disability policy allows many if not most SDFD firefighters to avoid most income tax on their pensions upon retirement!
We have strong city labor unions, and – for all intents and purposes – control the city council!
Okay, okay – so what’s the catch? Well, you have to be a high school graduate, a legal resident of the U.S., drug free, reasonably fit, above average intelligence, be able to see, and, most importantly, you must possess the Emergency Medical Technician Certificate (EMT-1) to be hired. Previous fire fighter experience and certifications are a HUGE PLUS!
If you don’t already have your EMT-1 certification, you’re too late for this year (we hire only once a year). But we have an ongoing need for such certified people.
More good news! Because our fire fighters’ union wants higher pay and the city is very submissive to our desires, the city keeps these job openings a semi-secret. If everyone knew the full story of what a great job and fabulous pay firefighting offers, the city would be swamped with applications – which would be both costly and embarrassing. Perhaps you heard about the recent debacle in Oakland where 2,000 applicants were lined up for the handful of job openings. Not in San Diego. You can’t apply except during an unannounced period of time over the Christmas holiday season, and then only by mail.
That application time is now! The annual openings are now posted on the city website, but not advertised to the public.
Last year (2006) the city received only 100 applications for about 30 openings, until some nosy reporter spilled the beans shortly before the deadline, and another 2,000 or so people rushed to get their job applications in on time. With luck, this year the city’s sleepy press will miss this story all together.
And this year, there’s even more good news. Our city fire fighters’ union is asserting that many, many current city fire fighters are leaving to get better paying jobs in other California cities. If our union is to be believed, there should be a TON of openings for new fire fighters in San Diego. (NOTE: Didn’t happen. Only an increase in retirees created more openings.)
For more information, you can call “Dave” in the city’s personnel office at 619-236-6467. But you don’t need to do that. Go to the city website for a very detailed PDF document with everything you need to know about the job. The link is: http://apps.sandiego.gov/pjaol8/bulletins/2931.pdf
The salary schedules listed in the above job description PDF document are accurate, but are a bit misleading. Within a San Diego fire fighting position, the employee almost always moves quickly from the bottom to the top of the pay scale in less than three years. The Fire Fighter I position is a temporary probationary status that lasts less than two years – there are only about 20 fire fighters currently holding that designation, earning a top salary of $45,000.
Assuming you pass the probationary period, you become a Fire Fighter II – we have 406 employees holding that designation. Within three years you should reach the top pay scale of over $60,000 a year (plus all the overtime you want).
If you qualify to operate and maintain the fire truck, you can advance to Fire Engineer. There are 219 such positions with a top salary exceeding $71,000, plus overtime.
The chances of moving up to Fire Captain are excellent. There are 226 Fire Captains with a top salary of $82,000, plus overtime.
Most city fire fighters manage to retire as either a Fire Captain or Fire Engineer, with their pension figured based on that salary. A surprising number retire as Battalion Chief with a top salary of $95,600 – there are 16 Battalion Chiefs.
Our city’s pension formula is generous – 3% times number of years times your highest year's salary.
In addition, the city pays numerous substantial additional bonuses for qualifying as a paramedic, EMT, etc. Obviously, the financial opportunities are substantial.
Finally, as a San Diego fire fighter, you later can file for disability (for any medical problem – job related or not) and there’s a good chance you can get up to half your pension income tax-free. Many San Diego fire fighters do. This option could cut your federal and state income taxes 60% to 80%!
HOW TO APPLY
To discourage applications, the city does not post the fire fighter employment form on its otherwise sophisticated website. To apply for the job, a job seeker can drop by the downtown or satellite city office and pick up a fire fighter application.
Or you can request an application by mail. To receive the application, you’ll need to mail your request to the city. You MUST include a 9” by 12” stamped (currently 80 cents) self-addressed return envelope. Mail your request to:
City of San Diego Personnel
1200 3rd Ave. Suite 300
San Diego, CA 92101
San Diego is an equal opportunity employer.