By Amanda Brush
Midst the talk of Ordinance 37, Peter Goldberg, chairman of the state Republican Party, made a comment to Anchorage Assemblyman Bill Starr stating that he didn’t think Anchorage police and fire jobs are dangerous. The comment started a Facebook frenzy. Goldberg later gave an apology for this comment, saying it wasn’t worded correctly. However he still thinks the salaries of rescue personnel in Anchorage are too big.
So, are firefighters overpaid? The firefighters of Downtown Anchorage Fire Station 1 are enthusiastic to discuss just a little bit about the life of an Anchorage firefighter.
“We work what’s called Kelly Shifts,” said Jason Kohler, standing outside what’s called the Big House, where huge red vehicles are parked and hockey jerseys hang from the ceiling.
“Every vehicle you see has a different sleep pattern. We get banged up, then try to recover,” said Kohler. When most of the city is relaxing on their days off on holidays — such as Thanksgiving, Christmas, family birthdays — the firefighters still go to work, like cops or military.
Captain Richard Minkler said, “Firefighters die young. … on average (they) live about eight years longer than their retirement age.”
This is due to many reasons. One large one is because their careers are spent breathing in toxic fumes emitted from fires and other dangerous situations.
When asked about recruitment, it was mentioned that the competitive applicant numbers may have gone down due to firefighters in Anchorage not getting retirement pensions like in some places — rather, they have a regular 401(k).
And those Costco runs people may sometimes see them making? Every firefighter has $20 from their paycheck taken and pooled together at the start of each shift for group meals.
Peter Goldberg’s comment was made midst Ordinance 37 being mentioned a lot in the news. Ordinance 37 was passed last spring, supported by Mayor Dan Sullivan. It goes over the payment and benefits of public service employees. Critics, such as the Anchorage Education Association and Anchorage Firefighter’s Union, disagree strongly. So in September a petition was started, and on Oct. 22 the Anchorage Assembly voted twice to repeal the ordinance. Sullivan vetoed both votes.
More information about firefighters and other Anchorage public service employees can be found at http://www.muni.org, the website for the municipality of Anchorage.