Kilgore City Council approved a motion at Tuesday night’s council meeting to offer a pay increase to Kilgore Fire Department firefighters who live within the city limits.

KFD firefighters who currently live within city limits receive $150 per month in additional allowance pay and KFD Chief Bellows proposed raising that amount to $300 per month to improve employee retention and attract new firefighters to live within the community.

“We would like to increase it,” Bellows said of the current in-city allowance rate.

“The Kilgore Fire Department is one of the lowest-paid in the state. What we would hope this would do is help to bring the firefighter salary of the Kilgore firefighters close to the level of our average around this area.”

Bellows noted KFD firefighters make less than firefighters in nearby cities.

“Henderson Fire Department starts out between $42,000 and $43,000 while KFD firefighters start out at $39,000. This would enable the few that want to be part of our city and be dedicated to our city and be able to respond from our city to get to that level of what Henderson makes.”

Also, the chief noted, the lower pay rate has a measurable impact on firefighter and employee retention.

“It makes it difficult to recruit and retain employees because of our lower pay. We have an average of 15 to 20 percent resignations per year. It’s costly for clothing, equipment and training and it’s costly to train our new employees.”

Additionally, Bellows said, the pay increase would enable KFD employees to have a “buy-in” to the city, meaning those firefighters who live locally would be incentivized to remain a part of the community. The pay increase could also reduce equipment and training costs.

Perhaps most importantly, incentivizing KFD firefighters to remain local would provide the department with a ready-to-roll group of firefighters who can be called up in the event of serious or large weather or fire situations. Off-duty firefighters who live within the city can respond more quickly than those who would have to drive in from elsewhere.

This is an important tactic, Bellows said, as the department recently had to call up off-duty firefighters during severe storms.

“The more we have, the more we can call in to be on-duty at the time but, during that incident, they would get here quicker also.”

Bellows said the initial cost of the increase would be minimal, as KFD currently only has 3 employees living within city limits.

The city council voted unanimously to approve the pay increase.

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