BAKERSFIELD, Calif. (KERO) — Local firefighter recruits will soon be seeing a boost to their paychecks. The Kern County Board of Supervisors voted on Tuesday, September 13th to increase the salaries of new recruits at the Kern County Fire Department. There are firefighter shortages all over California, and the pay increase is how Kern County is taking action.
Before the pay increase, the regular salary of firefighter recruits was just under $1,600 dollars per paycheck. Starting on September 24th, new recruits can expect about $1,900 dollars per bi-weekly check.
“This was a clerical thing. This was something that needed to be done, but certainly it definitely does benefit any individuals that are being hired as a recruit with Kern County Fire,” said KFCD representative Andrew Freeborn.
The pay increase for recruits brings recruit salaries more in line with the salaries of the firefighters, something KCFD says is important to hiring and retaining qualified personnel. According to the Kern County Firefighters Union, the department still has 40 vacancies to fill and hopes to see more pay increases in the future to help fill those jobs.
One of the most prominent college programs here in Kern County is Bakersfield College’s firefighter academy, but according to the Department of Public Safety at BC, enrollment used to be upwards of 100 applicants. Nowadays, it’s closer to 50.
“The best way to look at it is there’s really kind of a constant need for us to be recruiting, for us to be looking for individuals to hire on the current county fire department,” said Freeborn. “Really, this is very similar to many of the fire agencies throughout California.”
Bakersfield College is currently recruiting for their fire academy. The application process is open now until October 3rd. Freeborn is hopeful that the salary increase will help with recruitment.
“For anyone that’s even potentially thinking about a career as a professional firefighter, they are never going to regret that,” said Freeborn.
There are multiple options to pursue a career in firefighting. The Kern County Fire Department has information on how to become a firefighter at their website.