Study: Paying Fire Volunteers Would Run $3.3B a Year

ALBANY (AP) -

Volunteer firefighters say their service saves New York communities more than $3 billion a year statewide.

A study released by The Fireman’s Association of the State of New York calculates that switching over to all-paid squads would cost $3.1 billion in pay and benefits annually, plus additional costs for maintaining living and eating quarters. There also would be a one-time cost of $5.9 billion for a statewide switchover.

The report says property taxes would have to be raised by an average of 27 percent outside of New York City.

There is no serious movement to pay all-volunteer squads, but officials with the firefighters’ group say the report conducted for by an outside group illustrate the value of the squads.

There are about 100,000 volunteer firefighters in the state. About nine of 10 municipal fire departments are volunteer, many in more sparsely populated areas with a smaller tax base.

There are more than 200 paid fire departments in New York state, mostly in big cities like Buffalo and New York City. Median base pay for a full-time firefighter in New York outside of New York City is about $63,000.