OPELOUSAS, La. — The city council met Thursday night to discuss and vote on the fire departments pay and the election of a new fire chief.
This comes after the fire department hasn't had a raise in over 17 years, causing many firefighters to quit or be forced to move to other larger cities that pay higher to make a better living.
Opelousas firefighters were originally being paid only $9.50 hourly wage, now their pay will be increased to $10.50 an hour.
A dollar difference, but firefighters there at the meeting tell KATC that although they are pleased with this raise, it is still far too low for the dangerous job that they do.
"They know their job won't be in vain, it's a step in the right direction but there's still a lot left to go," said Captain Anthony Joseph.
Raising the salary can also keep firefighters working in the city and attract other potential firefighters to come and want to work in Opelousas.
"We're very behind on the times, as long as the budget committee and the council can still work with us and we need to continue to move forward with this, we can't stop at a dollar," said Lieutenant Daniel Saucier. "It's still a very low wage and we still can't retain people, we cannot hire people for that."
Newly elected Fire Chief Joseph Bryan Chavis, who has worked in the fire department for 29 years is happy for this chance to lead and with the salary increase, is able to recruit more firefighters and keep his current employees from leaving.
"If we keep the base rate up it would make us competitive again and that is why we can retain the guys we were losing, we can try to hold on to the ones that were contemplating leaving and possibly get some fresh recruits in," said Chavis.
Council members and firemen say this should be the first of many salary increases for the fire department in Opelousas.
Saying that the more they close the wage gap, the more firefighters will want to work and do what they do best, protect the city.