SALINAS, Calif. - There are seven major fires burning in California. Some Cal Fire crews are fighting more than just fires. Some firefighters took their case to the State Capitol Monday, to demand better pay. Hundreds of firefighters from Cal Fire Local 2881 were a part of the march. According to a salary report, Cal Fire firefighters make 30 to 90 percent less than city and county firefighters.
"We are concerned and the compaction of overlapping of pay it really impacts the morale and kind of robs our men and women of the incentive to promote, so that's why they are moving on to other departments," said fire captain, Mike Morlan.
A level two firefighter makes about $2,500 a month but a city firefighter makes more than double that. Some of the firefighters have been working 72 hour schedules, compared to an average of 56 hours for city departments.
Since the start of the Soberanes Fire, on July 22, thousands of firefighters have been camping out at Toro Park in Monterey County. Crews at the site said it could be another month before they get to see their families.
Residents in town have posted signs all around, reminding firefighters how grateful they are for the service, even if they feel the pay doesn't show it.
"It's very hard for ourselves and our families to be away but thankfully our families understand that our priorities are to save peoples lives," said Cal Fire public information officer, Rigoberto Herrera.
The pay increase is ultimately up to the state human resources department and the governor. A statement from Cal H-R explained, "Our state firefighters are everyday heroes and are valued civil servants. However, when considering compensation the state must balance the needs of many different bargaining units and the overall state budget."
"We need to show the state that we're not joking around anymore and that it's time to pay us fairly," said Morlan.
Cal Fire crews respond to about 400,000 calls a year and they want the public to know, no matter what the outcome is, fighting fires will be its top priority.
State firefighters are taking their salary complaints to Sacramento. At a rally on the Capitol steps Monday, union representatives claimed that CAL FIRE firefighters are paid significantly less than firefighters working for the top 25 fire departments in California.
According to union figures, Cal Fire firefighters work longer hours and are paid 30 to 90 percent less than firefighters with local agencies.
KION's Brandon Castillo will have a full report tonight.