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Friday, March 30, 2007

Sheriff's Deputies Get their Birthday off

Amendment of the contract between the Sheriff and the City of Roanoke to permit her employees a paid holiday on the day of their birthday for fiscal year 2006-07, retroactive to July 1,2006. (Read More)

In light of the Roanoke City Police Department protesting their Pay and Benefits, the City Council will make a ruling on an Amendment to the contract with Sheriff Octavia Johnson to give her Sheriff Deputies their Birthday off. Actually, the Amendment gives 59 remaining Deputies their Birthday off and makes the previous 200, give or take a few, legitimate.

So, if it goes through, I will imagine we will see our memo come out next week telling us we get our Birthday off.

Note: We aren't talking about paid leave, or holiday time, or sick leave. We are talking about getting your Birthday off with pay at no cost to yourself.

Let me be the first to say that I really appreciate the extra free day off to all those involved. I mean you don't like the Sheriff's Deputies more than Roanoke's Finest or Roanoke's Bravest or the rest of the City of Roanoke's workforce do you?

Sign me up!!!

Ballroom appeals fire marshal's ruling

From the Roanoke Times (link):

An emotional Frank Selbe told a city attorney and Roanoke fire officials Thursday night that if they hold to an occupancy limit of 49 people and require a fire escape or other second exit for the stately Corinthian Ballroom downtown, his wife and her co-owner will be out of business.

This is an interesting article. I guess it is unfortunate that the building has been used with only 1 exit for so many people for so long. Fortunately for the owners, the ruling was overruled.

The one thing I found most interesting was this:

Marston called witnesses who included architect Byron Dickson to testify that the building itself is essentially invulnerable to fire.

"The building's fireproof," said Dickson.

I thought that America had learned that nothing is fire proof back in the 60s and 70s. I thought that an educated man like Dickson wouldn't use such catastrophe inducing words such as "FireProof".

As for the owners and attendees of the Corinthian Ballroom, you should heed the warning of the Fire Marshal and other Fire Officials. If you want case study, just read about the Cocoanut Grove Fire or Triangle Shirtwaist fire where many people perished due to inadequate egress.

For educational purposes, while masonry and other fire proofing materials do not necessarily burn at reasonable fire related temperatures, they can fail. I can guarantee you that the building Dickson says is invulnerable to fire can and will easily burn to the ground, without the expertise of Roanoke's Bravest that is.

Wasn't it Jacob Aster, the Architect of the Titanic, who said it was unsinkable.

Friday, March 23, 2007

Collective Bargaining for Firefighters and Police

Here is an interesting video on Collective Bargaining in West Virginia. The video opens with comments by Lisa Dooley, Executive Director of West Virginia's Municipal League. I will be civil and not pick apart her comments like the NO-STRIKE clause offers little comfort for firefighters not striking. COME ON LADY, GET A LIFE. If anything, you guys have a harder time telling us to go home. Just look at any major catastrophe and you will find many firefighters who ended up not getting full compensation for their work. But I don't expect you to understand Lisa, because you aren't one of us. But that is all, I won't pick apart the rest.

I met Brian Jones at the IAFF Legislative Conference, he is the WVA Professional Fire Fighters President. We had some small talk with a couple of the other guys from VA and WVA.

I will shut up now. Watch the video.
For those of you on Roanoke City Computers, I believe is blocked, so check it out at home.

Here is part II

Celebrate Station 3 - 98 Years of Fire Service

The guys at Station 3 are planning a farewell party for the Fire Station which will be closing in about a month. On April 15th from 1pm til around 5pm, stop by and enjoy some food and beverage and reminisce about the nearly 100 year old station.

Fire Station 3 was opened on April 12, 1909, and will have just celebrated its 98th Anniversary when it is closed for good. The station was home to horses and horse drawn fire apparatus when it opened. The station has seen some changes over the years. Around 1950, the front facade which read No. 3 Engine House fell off of the top of the station onto the front ramp. The hose tower was removed from the roof line up, the hay loft is now used as additional bedroom, the room known as the kitchen now was added on in the 60's I believe and was originally used as a radio communications room/alarm room.

I will have more information soon on the event.

Support a local Firefighter


Firefighter Kevin Jamerson of the Moneta Volunteer Fire Department
Roanoke Fire-EMS Lieutenant Rhett Fleitz will be on hand signing copies of his new book...

APRIL 28, 2007-- 1pm
At First Due Fire/EMS Gear

Kevin is a member of the Moneta Volunteer Fire Department and was involved in a tragic accident on Nov. 4th, 2006. Kevin had just returned to the station from a fire when a platform he was standing on gave way. Kevin fell head first onto the concrete bay floor below and the platform crushed both of his feet. Kevin is married with a young son and has been out of work since the accident. Please stop by and show your support to Kevin and his family.

Fire Station 1 Nears Completion

The new Headquarters Fire-EMS Station 1 is nearing completion. I haven't had the chance to get inside of it since they began building. The other day, I ventured over to take some pictures of the station. They are below. The Station is set to open sometime the middle to end of April from what I understand.
This is the front of the station.
This is the rear of the station. You can see the 3 large bay doors in the center which will be for the Engine, Medic Unit or two, and ?Ladder? The two small bay doors on the right and one on the left will be for the Battalion Chief, RS-1, and I guess the service truck.
This is the Franklin Rd. Side of the building.
Here is the kitchen. It boasts large walk in pantry which will be used as the pantries and also will house a refrigerator. Each Shift will get a pantry.
This is a look down the hallway of the bunk room. Unlike most of the stations in Roanoke which feature an open bedroom full of beds, this station shares the design of pods in the bedroom with stations like 6 and 4.
This is a picture of the locker room. The lockers are located down one side (left) and in an open area at the other end. On the right is individual bathrooms with showers.
This is the watchdesk located just off of the bay as you can see through the window.

Thursday, March 22, 2007

M. Park, firefighters and $

This is an important article for you all to read about pay and benefits in another department in Virginia. Manassas Park is a city with a population around 12000. The Manassas Park Fire Department has one station, two engines, two ambulances, and one quint.

Manassas Park senior firefighter Roland Hackney likes his job, in part, because it reminds him of the camaraderie he felt while playing football for Mount Vernon High School in Alexandria in the 1980s.
"It's like your second family," said Hackney, an 18-year veteran of the Manassas Park Fire Department.
That second family has had its share of divorces lately, though, as the department has lost nine shift firefighters and EMS technicians in the last nine months, including four in the last three months. While all have left on amicable terms, said fire chief John O'Neal, it's a problem that needs fixing as soon as possible.

Read the whole article, see what the Manassas Park Fire Chief is doing about their turnover rate.

Tuesday, March 20, 2007

Raleigh and Wake County Firefighting Weblog

I have found some new Fire Blogs.

Raleigh and Wake County Firefighting Weblog

This one has been online for just over a year now. Check the blog out. They have two guys, Lee Wilson and Mike Legeros, who manage the blog and it seems as though they are enjoying themselves bringing the news of Raleigh and Wake County to Firefighters around the World.

I have added them to the sidebar for your future use.

Here is another Blog from the other side of the Country:

BATTALION 14 News & Information

Also added to the sidebar, this blog is heavy on HTR photos/incidents. This blog is managed by a firefighter on each shift it appears.

If you know of other blogs out there, let me know. I enjoy checking them out as well as offering them in one place for you guys to look at.

Here is a cool tidbit on the Roanoke Fire Blog, we are on the first page for the google search Fire Blog. We share the front page with the LAFD Blog, which far surpasses our traffic. The Roanoke Fire Blog is also on the first google search page for Firefighter Blog.

Here is one more:

Deaf Firefighter's Blog

He does a great post on the PASS alarm issue which has quickly become a huge problem in the World of Firefighting.

Monday, March 19, 2007

Pay, Morale, and Days off - Roanoke Police are Sick and Tired

Bear with me here. I need to weight in on some recent news.

Roanoke City Manager Darlene Burcham has acknowledged that compensation for city employees lags behind comparable cities in Virginia. But she has cited lower costs of living in the Roanoke region and previous efforts to recruit and retain police officers as factors influencing the pay and benefits offered by the city to law enforcement officers.

Taken from 404 Not Found Blog on The Roanoke Times website (includes a video).
I see one major problem with the statement mentioned in the above blog by the City Manager. "compensation for city employees lags behind comparable cities in Virginia. But she has cited lower costs of living" I thought that the cost of living index was used to compare cities. Therefore if the compensation lags comparable cities in Virginia, the lower costs of living would have already been factored in. We still lag behind.

Now on to the issue of Pay Parity among Roanoke's Public Safety

"The starting salary for a city police officer is $31,213, which is less than that of some smaller departments in the area, such as the Roanoke County Police Department, where officers start at $31,825. But ever since December 2004, city officers have been getting bumped up to $34,802 after their first 18 months."

Taken from Police stage protest over pay on the Roanoke Times.
The Police Department is already above the Fire Department. Our Firefighters don't get that bump in pay grade after the 18 months. On top of that, the Officers receive the coveted career enhancement pay that the Firefighters have sought for many years. This means that Officers who are FTO's, K-9, Tactical Team Members, College Graduates, etc. receive an extra percentage on top of their base pay, compounded during raises.

We have guys hired by the Fire Department made to be EMT's over 15 years ago and they only get $100 a month, not compounded, not factored on any raise, never been reassessed in 15+ years.

Is there pay parity? There has certainly been give and take as far as various public safety departments receiving raises and other departments piggy backing on each other. This process has worked out pretty good in the past considering the pay and benefit obstacles we face in Roanoke.

I have no issue with the Roanoke Police staging a "protest" to wake the city up to the issues facing their department. I think that they got the attention they were looking for.

However, I am not so sure I would have jumped so quick to picket as they did, which has only occurred a handful of times in the last 50 years between the Police and Fire Departments. Actually, I would have gone straight to City Council to sell my ideals and have them force the City Managers hand to prioritize. I like using the analogy of the trash cans downtown. Have you ever looked at those things, man they are nice. I bet the City spent a small fortune on them, only to come back and install custom cut logos on them made only by "Twists and Turns", not the cheapest place in town. Prioritize I tell you. You could have stuck a $2 sticker on those damn things, they weren't going anywhere.

I have the utmost respect for Police Officers as I do for all of Public Safety, especially Roanoke's Finest and Bravest. I have no doubt that the Police Officers deserve the same 9% the entire City is behind in pay including more, as do we.

Danville just had an independent study completed and found out that their employees were 8% behind. So their "Elected Council" decided to give them 4% for the next two years. Hell that equals 8% right. Wrong. When you are 8% behind, you have to give them the 8% and whatever the increase is for that year just to catch up. Every year you neglect proper pay, the farther the employees fall into the abyss.

What happens then? Employees leave for better pay, better benefits, different jobs to be treated properly, morale tanks, people begin to not care as much, etc.

I have news for you, these things are happening. Ever since I have been here in Roanoke I have witnessed an ever tightening collar put on the Firefighters. A once well oiled machine has become a feeding frenzy with an "every man for himself" mentality. The Good Ole' Boy network of long ago has reemerged with a dangerous cut throat attitude which is a product of needless micro management. Those who refuse to get wrapped up in this tornado are the ones who will walk away with their dignity.

Most of us have stuck with it, some have jumped ship giving up the job they love for ethical reasons, others have left to take the free fire/EMS education to other departments to make more money, and yet there are many Firefighters hoping that they will not lose their jobs due to loosely written policies backing an agenda which was written on a restaurant napkin and put into place for lack of care for a real solution to problems most departments have long put behind them.

Why do you think every ten or so years we get a big raise. Because we aren't getting the raises we deserve annually during those 10 years. Think about the money that the City saves doing business like that. Now think about how that effects retirees each year the City holds off correcting the pay issues. That could mean the difference in $100's of dollars a month, which means a lot to a retiring Firefighter who walks with 50% of the average of the last 3 years only after 25 years and reaching the rule of 70 (age + years of service = 70).

OK, enough about that. Now onto another topic today. Sheriff Johnson has been giving her Deputies their birthday off for the past 9 months for free, at no expense to the Deputy. Today she asked permission to do it. In my department, for those of us on the new pay plan there are two types of time off (uninjured); Paid Leave and Holiday, everything else is Absent WithOut Pay (AWOP).


I was sitting there watching the City Council meeting waiting for the magic question "Why are you bringing this up now?" which Councilwoman Mason finally asked. Johnson's answer was something about how Human Resources had called her about it asking questions.

I have witnessed a lot of issues which I felt that the City was taking liberties interpreting the laws, policies, and regulations on the Local, State, and Federal stage. It seems as though you have to dig deep in your pockets just to call them on the issues and get a straight forward answer from the Courts to rectify the situation. Yet we have an Elected Official handing out free days off.

The City Lawyer stated that the Deputies already get more Holidays than most City workers because they get the State Holidays which the City doesn't recognize. When asked what the days off cost, Johnson didn't have an answer. However, she did state that the estimated cost of the remaining 59 Deputies to receive the free day off at $10,000. Therefore, using Fleitz math and the fact that there are around 240 deputies I believe, the total cost is around $40,000. Take it out of her check, you would if it were me.

When asked, the City Manager stated that if they get it everyone will want it. CORRECT. Sign me up. Who the hell wouldn't want it.

Now for the other side of the coin.

The reason why Sheriff Johnson sited for giving the birthday off was for the low morale in the department. Kudos to Sheriff Johnson for trying to make a difference.

Not that our Chief hasn't tried get us some extra benefits we deserve to increase morale. Remember the Career Enhancement pay I was talking about earlier. Our Chief has put in for it for several years, only to see it removed from the budget each year. The cost estimated at a mere $128,000. I think nearly a third of that was without permission over at the Sheriff's Department. Again, the Police Officers get it.

Maybe we should start asking for forgiveness as well, it seems to be easier than asking for permission.

Saturday, March 17, 2007

Roanoke Fire-EMS 100th Anniversary Celebration

Chief Hoback Addresses the Crowd

Today marked a significant Anniversary for the Roanoke Fire-EMS Department, one hundred years as a completely career Fire Department. (Read More)

According to the Maurice Wiseman Project on Local

March 31, 1907 - The Roanoke City Fire Department became fully paid with uniformed men and the Volunteers disbanded, most of which were hired by the department.

Roanoke St. Patrick's Day Parade - The Aftermath

Roanoke Firefighters took to the streets today for the St. Patrick's Day Parade in Downtown Roanoke. The event was cold, but luckily well attended. Check out this link for the whole story.

Engine 3

This is a video of Warpipe playing at the Parade. I will have more uploaded soon. I am experiencing yet another issue of Windows Vista and its lovely security features. For you guys at work, I think that the City blocked Youtube, which is where it is hosted, so you will see a big black area. Sorry.

The Greater Roanoke Police and Fire Emerald Society
This is an interesting banner by the Roanoke Police Officers Association. More on that Monday.

Roanoke St. Patrick's Day Parade

Roanoke's Bravest will be marching in the St. Patrick's Day Parade today. The guys from Station #2 A-Shift will be walking with the Dalmatians of Dalmatian Rescue.

I will be Downtown at the parade taking pictures. Afterwards, I will be attending the 100th Anniversary at Fire Station #1. I hope to see you Downtown.

Thursday, March 15, 2007

3 Years Old - Roanoke Fire Dot Com

You know what I missed. I missed the 3 year Anniversary of the Blog. Roanoke Firefighters Blog, Roanoke Fire Blog, Roanoke, whatever you want to call it has been online for 3 years now.

If you had asked me 3 years ago where we would be today I would not have thought that we would be 840+ posts deep. The blog has covered all kinds of topics and a lot has been thanks to the readers from Roanoke's Bravest to readers across the Nation. We have seen the blog used as a tool for communication, to catch up with old friends, to get new candidates hired, to train, to network, and many other uses.

I must say that the very few occasions where I think about hanging it up and ending the blog I usually think of the good times I have had and the fun I have had in bringing the news to you.

I must say that if I could change one thing I would rather not have had to regulate commenting. Which has worked out. Most of the negative commenter's have decided not to take the time out to register to post comments.

Today, I attended a blog meet up put on by Roanoke Biz2Biz and Stuart Mease who works for the City and runs Connecting People Blog. The event was enjoyable, and would have been perfect for any individuals or businesses who are looking into beginning a blog.

I don't know what will come in the future. It is kinda weird, but I don't have any goals for this blog. It kinda runs itself, but if you have an idea let me know. I have been focusing mostly on promoting which showcases the Fire/EMS Service across the State.

Fire destroys home in Roanoke


Eleven people are left homeless after a fire in Roanoke.

Investigators say an overheated extension cord started the fire this morning on Murray Avenue. Everyone got out safely.

Damage is estimated at $10,000. Residents are getting help from the Red Cross.

IAFF Presidential Forum Aftermath

11 candidates spoke to the IAFF members at the 2008 Presidential Forum. I would like to point you in the right direction for information on the event and the candidates. I decided to leave my comments on each of the candidates off of the blog for now so that the IAFF Local 1132 members can decide for themselves and not feel that our Local or the IAFF is swaying one way or another. The IAFF will not likely make an endorsement for some time and it should reflect the view of the majority of IAFF members.

I suggest you look closely at the information and watch the videos. Jonathan Martin dissects some of the candidates on his blog The Politico, although he did not see the entire forum and speaks mostly on the Democrats.

The IAFF have done the searching for you on News articles on the Presidential Forum. Visit to view links to many of the articles. There are many links to articles which offer Democrat and Republican views.

You can watch the videos of all the candidates individually. If you have ever wondered what these candidates think about Firefighters issues you need to check them out. If you would like to know more about what went on let me know.

IAFF General President Harold A. Schaitberger

This is what it looked like from my seat on the front row just off to the left. It was like a feeding frenzy for the photographers.

Former U.S. Senator John Edwards (D-NC)

Former Virginia Governor Jim Gilmore (R-VA)

U.S. Senator Barack Obama (D-IL) with Duane Dixon

U.S. Senator Barack Obama (D-IL) with our President Rodney Jordan

U.S. Representative Duncan Hunter (R-CA)

U.S. Senator Hillary Clinton (D-NY)

U.S. Senator John McCain (R-AZ)
U.S. Senator Chuck Hagel (R-NE)

U.S. Senator Christopher Dodd (D-CT)

U.S. Senator Sam Brownback (R-KS)

Governor Bill Richardson (D-NM)

U.S. Senator Joe Biden (D-DE) with Duane Dixon

Wednesday, March 14, 2007

Take a look over at, they posted a story I sent in on a roof over in 13's first due at the Starlite Motel.

IAFF Presidential Forum

First off, today you can watch the IAFF Presidential Forum via Webcast on the IAFF website ( If you get a chance, I suggest that you tune in for it.

IAFF General President Harold Schaitberger talks to the IAFF members about Legislation.

On Monday we heard speakers about many issues and were taught the ins and outs of the legislation we are pushing or opposing this year. Here are some of the speakers:

House Republican Leader, Representative John Boehner (R-OH)
Homeland Security Chairman Senator Joe Lieberman (ID-CT)

House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer’s (D-MD)

Representative Lois Capps (D-CA)

Representative John Larson (D-CT)

John Buckley, U.S. House Ways and Means Committee staff member

David Price (D-NC), chairman of the House Appropriations Subcommittee on Homeland Security

Yesterday, we were on Capitol Hill lobbying for several key legislative issues including a National Collective Bargaining Bill, SAFER funding, Presumptive laws for Federal Firefighters, and other legislation that I will have information for you soon.

Last night we enjoyed a reception with Senators and Representatives.

Nancy Pelosi, the Speaker of the House, was present and spoke to the Firefighters.

Senator Hillary Clinton was at the reception and will also be speaking at the Presidential Forum today.

Monday, March 12, 2007

Tune in for the IAFF Presidential Forum

Rodney Jordan, Mike Hanks, Duane Dixon, and I are in D.C. for the IAFF Legislative Conference this week. I will have plenty to report on in a couple of days and I hope to update the Local 1132 site soon, although I am having issues with some software which is preventing me from updating it right now.

Today, we will learn the various Legislation that affects our jobs as Firefighters and EMT's. The big ticket item this year is

On Tuesday we will meet with our Representatives and Lobby for the Legislation.

On Wednesday, we will attend a Presidential Forum like no other.


The Presidential Forum is part of the process of deciding which candidate deserves the IAFF’s support. Because of the value candidates see from the strong, loyal and very effective IAFF signature black and gold, prospective White House candidates are pursuing its support.

“This is the first bi-partisan Presidential Forum of the 2008 election cycle,” notes IAFF General President Harold Schaitberger. “No other union – and very few organizations – has the credibility and respect to attract top-tier candidates from both political parties. The lineup of speakers who have agreed to participate is truly a testament to our great union and to the reputation we have built as a powerful political force and a coveted endorsement.”

Confirmed speakers include:

● U.S. Senator Joe Biden (D-DE)
● U.S. Senator Hillary Clinton (D-NY)
● U.S. Senator Christopher Dodd (D-CT)
● Former U.S. Senator John Edwards (D-NC)
● Former Virginia Governor Jim Gilmore (R-VA)
● U.S. Senator Chuck Hagel (R-NE)
● U.S. Representative Duncan Hunter (R-CA)
● U.S. Senator John McCain (R-AZ)
● U.S. Senator Barack Obama (D-IL)
● Governor Bill Richardson (D-NM)

This Presidential Forum will be Webcast on You will be able to find a link to the exact URL on the site on Wednesday. The Forum will run from 8-5.

Saturday, March 10, 2007

Home Buying Assistance

I have some information for all of you out there who might be looking at purchasing a house in Roanoke City. There is some decent assistance available for you if you want it. View the .pdf file here for more information.

Thanks to Kieth over at Roanoke Found for the information.

Looking for information on hose picks

Hey Guys,

I am looking for information on our Hose Picks. I am currently seeking answers to these questions for a future post. If you do not know what I am talking about, I will show you in a future post.

  1. Do you know when hose picks first appeared in Roanoke?
  2. Do you know of other departments who use(d) them?
  3. Do you know of any firefighters who used to make them?
  4. Do you know what they were made from?
  5. What other information do you know about them?
Email me at with any information or leave a comment. Thanks.

Tuesday, March 06, 2007

100th Anniversary Information

Roanoke Fire-EMS 100th Anniversary

On March 17th Roanoke Firefighters will march in the St. Patrick's Day Parade at Noon. Following the Parade, the Roanoke Fire-EMS Department has planned a 100th Anniversary Party at the Historic Fire Station #1 Downtown. The event will be at 4 pm and everyone is welcome. I am not sure exactly of the festivities, although there will be some dignitaries speaking.

What are we celebrating?

On March 31, 1907:

The Roanoke City Fire Department became fully paid with uniformed men and the Volunteers disbanded, most of which were hired by the department (From the Maurice Wiseman Project Online).

Also 100 years ago on February 6, 1907:

Fire Station #1 is opened on this day. The Station was erected in 1906 at a cost $33,552.40. The bell and bell tower were moved from the old Station #1 to this Station #1. The building was designed by H.H. Huggins and built by John F. Barbour. From The Roanoke Leader Feb. 6, 1907 "...There are stalls for 9 horses. These stalls are made of iron and have running water beneath leading to the city sewer. The horses stand unhaltered, and are automatically released from their stalls by the first alarm... Roanoke now has one of the finest fire departments in the South and Roanokers, in consequence, have reason to be proud of the fact. And thus another step has been made onward to Greater Roanoke."(From the Maurice Wiseman Project Online)

I will be there, and the book "Firefighting in Roanoke" will more than likely be available at the event.

I hope to see you at the Parade, Station #1, or at least downtown afterwards drinking some green beer.

City of Roanoke's 125th Anniversary

"125th Anniversary Celebration Opening Ceremony" on Saturday, March 31 (between 12 and 4 p.m.), and it's "Free and Open to the Public!"

The theme of the day and throughout the anniversary year is: "People. Pride. Promise."

The Opening Ceremony is scheduled to include. . .

Distinguished Guests, including past Governors and other noted Roanoke-related politicos, noted authors actors and television dignitaries are scheduled to participate.
* The viewing of at least three major historical documentaries (including the premiere of Stars and Stripes, a work created especially for the 125th Anniversary Celebration.

A procession from the Hotel Roanoke (also established in 1882), with horse-drawn carriages, a color guard and bagpipers
* Vintage Automobiles

* A comprehensive exhibition of photographs and objects from Roanoke's history from the History Museum of Western Virginia

* Musical performances, including those by the students of Roanoke City Public Schools, members of the Roanoke Symphony Orchestra, and Manuel Melendez

* A procession of flags by the "Local Colors" organization from the 82 nations represented in our region

* Displays of period Silver & Displays of period jewelry

* An exhibit from the collection of Pete Ballard's period Fashion Dolls

* An exhibit of three historic "Period Rooms"

* A host of exciting activities for children and families in the smaller Exhibition Hall, which will be created and operated by the city's Parks and Recreation Department

* Refreshments for all

* And much more. . . (Read a more detailed listing)

You can tell them, but they won't understand

Why is it that the Firefighters, Police Officers, and Teachers have to stand up nearly each year and fight for fair pay? I cannot speak on behalf of the PD or Teachers on the specifics, however I know that it seems all to often that we are fighting for proper pay, pay grades, benefits, and treatment.

The way it used to be...Back in the day, Roanoke City offered a cost of living raise as well as a merit raise. This has been replaced by one annual raise supplemented by a "merit raise" which is not easy to achieve for most of us, and too easy for others. This supplemental raise might reach 1% beyond the annual raise which is announced by the City Manager. This year it is rumored that we will receive 5%.

5% is a decent raise, I am grateful for it, and I am sure the rest of my coworkers are as well.

However, due to the fact that the 5% is added to the base pay, we do not move very far from the entry level, or base of our grade level. The top end of the grade point continues to move further and further away.

Now let us talk about the cost of living. I have brought this up in the past. It seems as though we are always compared to areas in NOVA which most people believe have higher cost of living. We are told "How can you possibly expect to make all that money, it is sooooo much more expensive to live up there." Well I have news for you, Roanoke isn't the cheapest.

Let me throw some numbers out for you. Don't quote me on them, but I believe these to be fairly accurate:

Starting pay for a Firefighter/EMT

Fairfax County - 46k
Fairfax City - 44k
Loudoun County - 38k
Prince William - 39k
Virginia Beach - 38k after recruit school
Henrico County - 37k
Richmond - 36.5k
Norfolk - 33k
Roanoke City - 31k
Lynchburg - 31k
Roanoke County - 30k
Danville - 30k

If you use this little tool online, you will see that Richmond, Petersburg, Lynchburg, Norfolk (including Virginia Beach and Newport), and Danville are all cheaper places to buy a house. Unfortunately, the site doesn't list the Northern Virginia areas. But I think it is safe to say that those areas, at least some of them, might be higher.

So there we are on the bottom of the totum pole. It is no wonder that up to 3 more firefighters are rumored to be leaving the department shortly. I don't mean retiring, I mean going to other departments. I have heard that one is going to the Atlanta area, another to Albemarle, and I have not heard a place for the third.

It is pretty bad when we have some seasoned officers who could go to other departments and get a raise.

This is just a taste of the issue with firefighters pay compared to other areas of the Commonwealth. We have a bigger problem with pay compression among the ranks. From Firefighter to Battalion Chief we have overlapping pay, some Firefighter Medics making more than their Captains. This is a real problem. I understand that the City is looking into the Battalion Chiefs pay, which will spread things out a little bit.

How many more will leave. 15k a pop out of recruit school, we are only getting a couple of years use out of many of them anymore. My recruit school from 1999 only has about half that have stood the test of time. I guess I either didn't care enough to leave, or care too much and am still trying to fight for what we deserve.