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When an explosion, fire or disaster strikes, most people run away — but not firefighters. They run toward it.
Many firefighters describe their career choice as a “calling.” Take this well-known — and oft-quoted — statement from Edward F. Croker, the chief of the Fire Department of the City of New York from 1899 to 1911:
“I have no ambition in this world but one, and that is to be a fireman. The position may, in the eyes of some, appear to be a lowly one; but we who know the work which the fireman has to do believe that his is a noble calling. Our proudest moment is to save lives.”
Although firefighters are generally well-respected, the profession doesn’t always pay well.
The average annual wage for firefighters was $50,520 in May 2016, which is the most recent year for employment and wage statistics available from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics.
That’s not a bad wage. But while firefighters in some states have annual salaries topping $80,000, other firefighters are forced to scrape by on pay that hovers closer to minimum wage.
For example, some of the thousands of firefighters that have been battling recent blazes in California are getting paid just $10.50 an hour — California’s minimum wage, according to Money.
Here’s the average annual salary firefighters receive in all 50 states, starting with the lowest earners: