The State Worker

Chronicling civil-service life for California state workers

June 28, 2013
What California state workers earn: Firefighters


Like California Highway Patrol officers, the state's firefighters avoided furloughs during Republican Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger's administration.

When Gov. Jerry Brown insisted that all unions accept furloughs of one day per month last summer, the firefighters' union went along -- and it got a four-year contract extension out of the deal.

Here's what California Department of Forestry Firefighters' members earned over the last two years:

Number of employees in 2012: 5,646
2012 average pay: $36,754
2012 median pay: $40,903

Number of employees in 2011: 5,735
2011 average pay: $35,953
2011 median pay: $40,470

2012 Largest job class: Fire Captain (1,410)
Highest paid job class (2012 average): Aviation Officer III (Maintenance) ($95,557)
Lowest paid job class (2012 average): Fire Lookout-Seasonal ($7,013)

This chart shows the average and median pay for Bargaining Unit 8 in 2011 and 2012.

With talks and ratification votes for new state employee contracts on the agenda over the next few weeks, The State Worker is taking a first-ever look at what unionized workers earned over the last two years by bargaining unit.

The numbers feeding the series come from the State Controller's payroll database. The figures include only regular pay issued to full-time employees represented by the 21 bargaining units that negotiate contracts with the state. The number of employees includes only full-time workers who were paid during the calendar year. The number of employees includes only full-time workers who were paid during the calendar year. University of California and California State University employee earnings are not included in these figures. The data covers calendar 2011 and 2012.

PHOTO: Firefighters work together as a hand crew to clear a fire break during a training exercise near Jackson on Thursday, April 25, 2013. The Sacramento Bee/Randy Pench.

On October 14, The Sacramento Bee will temporarily remove commenting from While we design the upgrade, we encourage you to tell us what you like and don't like about commenting on and other websites. We've heard from hundreds of you already and we're listening. Please continue to add your thoughts and questions here. We also encourage you to write Letters to the Editor on this and other topics.

About The State Worker

Jon Ortiz The Author

Jon Ortiz launched The State Worker blog and a companion column in 2008 to cover state government from the perspective of California government employees. Every day he filters the news through a single question: "What does this mean for state workers?" Join Ortiz for updates and debate on state pay, benefits, pensions, contracts and jobs. Contact him at (916) 321-1043 and at


Now on the State Worker column

State Pay Database

This database allows you to search the salaries of California's 300,000-plus state workers and view up to four years of their pay history.


October 2013

Sun Mon Tue Wed Thu Fri Sat
    1 2 3 4 5
6 7 8 9 10 11 12
13 14 15 16 17 18 19
20 21 22 23 24 25 26
27 28 29 30 31    

Monthly Archives