A firefighter carries hoses during the Research Fire Thursday, August 2, 2018 in Corona. Homes were briefly threatened and under mandatory evacuations along Juniper Drive in the Sierra Del Oro development south of the 91 Freeway. (Photo by Brian Rokos, The Press-Enterprise/SCNG)
A strike team walk up Highway 74 near the Hurkey Creek area on day 3 of the Cranston Fire in Idyllwild on Friday, July 27, 2018. (Photo by Stan Lim, The Press-Enterprise/SCNG)
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Fire burns through Holy Jim Canyon in Trabuco Canyon on Monday, August 7, 2018. (OnScene.TV)
Firefighters stand watch on a roof as a wildfire sweeps through the area near Lakeport, Calif., Thursday, August 2, 2018. (Kent Porter /The Press Democrat via AP)
Corona firefighters survey what’s left of the Research Fire Thursday, August 2, 2018 in Corona. Homes were briefly threatened and under mandatory evacuations along Juniper Drive in the Sierra Del Oro development south of the 91 Freeway. (Photo by Brian Rokos, The Press-Enterprise/SCNG)
Firefighter Vincent Plant of San Diego, with the UsS. Fish and Wildlife Service crew, walks to his fire engine after helping with a fire line on Placer Road near Diggins Way in Redding on Saturday, July 28. (Hector Amezcua/The Sacramento Bee via AP)
Members the Olivehurst Fire Department stage behind the Igo-Ono Volunteer Fire Department station house along South Fork Road while battling the Carr Fire in Igo, Calif., on Saturday, July 28, 2018. The wildfire in Northern part of the state has killed two firefighters, injured three more, destroyed 500 structures and scorched nearly 81,000 acres. (Anda Chu/Bay Area News Group)
A Cal Fire firefighter sets a back fire in front of the Carr Fire while protecting a home on Lazyhorse Lane in Igo, Calif., on Saturday, July 28, 2018. The wildfire in Northern part of the state has killed two firefighters, injured three more, destroyed 500 structures and scorched nearly 81,000 acres. (Anda Chu/Bay Area News Group)
A firefighter makes a stand in front of an advancing wildfire as it approaches a residence Saturday, July 28, 2018, in Redding ,Calif. (AP Photo/Marcio Jose Sanchez)
Firefighters from the Orange County Fire Authority, one of five agencies on scene, clean up a three-alarm fire at a commercial building in the 2100 block of S. Yale Street in Santa Ana on Tuesday, August 7, 2018. (Photo by Kevin Sullivan, Orange County Register/SCNG)
Let’s just say I’ve got California firefighters on my mind.
Throughout the state, they’re doing heroic work to keep the loss of life and property to a minimum in a mind-boggling busy summer for wildfires. (Note: One of the blazes, the Holy Fire, is fairly near my home!)
So, wondering what the job market looks like for firefighters, I tossed a detailed annual study of workers and wages by federal job counters into my trusty spreadsheet. Here’s what the latest report — using data as of May 2017 — tells us about statewide employment levels and compensation for workers classified as firefighters and how California stacks up nationally.
Seven things you should know …
1. How many? 31,150 California workers are classified as firefighters, the most of any state in the nation. This is not surprising considering California’s our most populous state. Roughly 1-in-10 of the nation’s 319,860 firefighters are in California. Following the Golden State: Texas (27,900), Florida (24,430), Ohio (18,670) and Illinois (17,830).
2. Is that really a lot? Not really. Based on employment levels across all industries, California ranked 32nd in ’17 for firefighting’s share of all jobs in a state. Or, looking at this another way: California has 17 percent fewer firefighters than the average workforce. North Carolina has the highest firefighter-to-all-workers ratio, with 58 percent more than the national average.
3. Good pay? California firefighters averaged $73,860 annually in ’17 vs. $51,930 nationally and No. 2 in the U.S. behind’s New Jersey’s $75,880. Following California is New York ($70,560), Washington ($70,300) and Nevada ($66,670). Lowest paid? Mississippi at $30,690.
4. Pay range? California’s best-paid firefighters (90th percentile) got $112,250 a year in 2017. Lowest paid (10th percentile) got $39,960. That gap is 17th highest among the states, with California’s high-paid firefighters making 2.8 times the bottom.
5. Who else makes that much? Look at California’s all-industry pay rankings, and you’ll find in 2017 that firefighters’ average wages are wedged between commercial and industrial designers, compensation analysis specialists, makeup artists for theatrics and middle school teachers.
6. Growth? California firefighting staffing expanded 17.3 percent between 2012 and 2017 — that’s No. 13 among the states and more than double the 7.7 percent national growth. Average wages grew 1.8 percent in 2012-17 — that’s No. 43 among the states — and well below 8.1 percent raises nationwide.
7. And local? In Southern California’s metro area in 2017 there were 7,660 firefighters employed by various agencies in Los Angeles County (average pay of $85,620); 1,050 in Orange County ($81,190); and 2,480 in the Inland Empire ($66,150).