Even with low pay, Minden Fire Department is fully staffed; volunteer numbers down

By Bonnie Culverhouse

While the city struggles to pass a budget, the firefighter struggles to support his family.
Anyone who has ever experienced a house fire understands the point where a firefighter becomes a hero.

City of Minden’s paid firefighters earn $8.85 an hour in starting pay.

“The man who weed-eats for the city makes more than that,” Minden Mayor Terry Gardner said during a recent budget workshop with some members of the Minden City Council.

“We aren’t asking for a raise,” fire Capt. Adam Bradley said. “What we are trying to do is bring it to the council’s attention.”

Since the last budget workshop, Bradley said he and other firefighters have met with two city councilpersons and talked with others.

“They’ve all been real receptive,” he said. “And they’ve all had their different plans (to increase pay), and they’re all OK with what we’ve asked for, which is to be moved up to where Minden PD is at $13.75 an hour.”

The City employs 15 full time civil service firefighters, a number that has been consistent over the past four years.

However, volunteers – which are extremely important – have fluctuated. To date, there are only 18. In 2018, there were 25 volunteers.

Total combined alarms, which include inside and outside the city, fires and fire drills, rescue calls and non-emergency runs in 2018 totaled 372, 2019 – 438, 2020 – 480 and 2021 to date – 387.

Firefighters – both paid and volunteer – provide mutual aid to other fire districts, such as Dist. 10, Dixie Inn, Sibley and Dubberly, while putting in training hours.

Training hour totals are: 2018 – 5,393, 2019 – 5,089.5, 2020 – 4,736 and 2021 to date – 3,687.

Two Minden Assistant Fire Chiefs have retired during the past year. Bradley said the department would like to see the City take the pay difference between retirees and new hires and spread it across the firefighters until they reach the goal of $13.75.

“It would go across the board to everybody,” Bradley said.
This plan would mean money would not be added to the City’s budget.
“We just want to get caught up with money that’s already there before there are any kind of other plans moving forward,” Bradley said.

Paid firefighters also receive a stipend from the state of $6,000 a year. Spread across 12 months, firefighters see $500 a month from those funds, before taxes.

While starting firefighters earn $8.85, firefighter/operators earn $9.74, captains see $11.06 and assistant chiefs see $13.28. The plan would bring firefighters to $13.75, firefighter/operators to $15.13, captains to $17.19 and assistant chiefs to $20.63.

A raise would not affect the chief nor volunteers, who are listed as part-time employees.

Fire Chief Kip Mourad said volunteers receive $20 per call, if they respond.
“I was getting $1,500 per month until the 2016-2017 budget,” Mourad said. “Then it went up to $3,250 per month. I don’t receive the $20 per call.”