Big paydays: One LA firefighter earned $600,000 and 86 made more than $400,000 in 2021

Los Angeles Police Department has far more employees, but the fire department's overtime was much higher.

Updated: July 18, 2022 - 11:36pm

The Facts Inside Our Reporter’s Notebook

Members of the Los Angeles Fire Department multiplied their annual income by racking up hours of overtime last year.

The Center Square analyzed the department's payroll records from 2021, uncovering dozens of employees who made more than $400,000 last year.

A captain in the department made $434,394 in overtime in 2021, pushing their gross pay to $598,532 to become the highest-paid employee in the city that year.

Another fire captain made $420,055 in overtime, pushing that person's gross pay to $593,314 in 2021. That person was the second-highest paid employee in the city, according to city payroll records. A firefighter with a base salary of $129,638 made $411,606 in overtime, making that firefighter's total compensation $554,056.

There were 86 employees in the fire department who made $400,000 or more in 2021. However, the highest ranking employee was not among those. The fire chief made $338,624, or nearly $250,000 less than the fire captain.

The Los Angeles Police Department has far more employees than the city's fire department, but the fire department's overtime was much higher.

The fire department's total payroll that year was $798.2 million. Overtime accounted for $244.9 million or about 31% of all the fire department's payroll costs.

The fire department paid more in overtime costs in 2021 than the police department, which paid $132.4 million in overtime that year.

The Los Angeles Police Department had 12,139 sworn and civilian police employees in 2021 compared to 3,643 sworn and civilian fire department employees. Even so, the fire department paid out more than $100 million more in overtime costs than the police department.

City documents show that the fire department has been working under minimum staffing mandates for years. Minimum staffing means that a certain number of employees have to be assigned to specific duties, and if the number falls below that minimum number, those vacancies must be replaced with overtime.

The fire department had fewer employees in 2021 than it did in the past two years. The total for 2021 was 3,643, down from 3,771 in 2020 and 3,715 in 2019, according to city records.

The mayor's office and the fire department did not immediately respond to questions about overtime pay.