Staffing shortages in the San Francisco Fire Department have resulted in some firefighters receiving six-figure overtime paychecks.
With two months left to go in the fiscal year, the department has already spent its entire $38 million overtime budget. The Board of Supervisors now must decide if they want to approve the fire department’s request for an additional $4.1 million.
According to the San Francisco Chronicle, a paramedic-firefighter at Station 51 made $191,000 in overtime and a lieutenant at Station 39 received $221,000 in overtime last year. Additionally, three battalion chiefs made $113,000 to $124,000 each in overtime, Fox News reported.
Firefighters union president Tom O'Connor blamed the chronic understaffing on the fire department’s inability to fill 400 vacant positions. He said that some crew members put in hundreds of hours of overtime every year.
"The only true way to solve the problem is to get more people in the department," O'Connor said.
San Francisco Mayor Ed Lee has said at least one additional 48-member class of firefighter recruits will be added to the department on a yearly basis until the vacant positions are filled.
Chief Joanne Hayes-White admitted that the overtime system currently in place is not sustainable.
"I don't support it from a safety perspective or from a mental health perspective," she said.
City firefighters are supposed to have an overtime cap of 633 hours, but they are able to go over the limit if they volunteer for shifts that need filling. The department has instituted a hard cap of 1,100 hours of overtime, which will be put into place on April 15.