Peachland’s firefighters are getting a wage increase this year.
The district’s fire chief Dennis Craig said the last review of the department’s pay, as well as the increase, last happened in June 2008.
Craig said the department has been monitoring their pay and comparing it to nearby departments and have found that they’ve been in line with others’ pay.
“Our recruit wage has been below minimum wage for some time, but they only sit at that wage for about six months,” he said.
“But now with the increase in minimum wage coming up in June 2021, we’ll actually put some of our firefighters below minimum wage as well.”
He said if the department’s wages don’t increase, they’ll put new recruits’ pay $5.20 below the minimum wage. Craig asked the district to increase new recruits’ pay to $15.20, which will reflect the provincial minimum wage after the increase this summer.
After six months, Craig proposed a $16.68 an hour pay and after they receive their certification, crews will then move up to $18. 35 an hour. Once they are fully certified, the firefighters will be paid $20.35 an hour, which Craig said is comparable to what fire crews get paid in Castlegar, Lake Country, Summerland and Salmon Arm.
Craig asked the district’s council to approve the new pay and that it be effective on Jan. 21.
Councillors voted in favour of the wage increase. Mayor Cindy Fortin said she hopes that the higher pay will incentivize firefighters and their families to stay in the community.
Coun. Patrick Van Minsel said he was amazed to read that Peachland’s firefighters were paid below minimum wage.
“I think it’s very important that we get (the increase) done as soon as we can. I’m in total agreement with the proposed rates,” he said.
“But per hour, I think they’re very low for the risk that some of our firefighters are taking.”
The district’s new fire department pay will come into effect on Jan. 21.