As rental and home prices increase throughout the state, some firefighters say they can’t afford to live in the communities they work in.
According to data from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, South Carolina’s annual mean wage in 2019 was $36,360, one of the lowest in the country.
Bill Pesature, the vice president of the Professional Firefighters Association of SC, says salaries for firefighters have not kept up with the cost of living.
“They can’t live where they work anymore. It just doesn’t happen,” Pesature said. “You need to raise your rates for what you pay people and take care of your people. Retention is vital.”
Pesature also says many firefighters are leaving the state for better pay, and investments aren’t being made into the people who have been in fire departments for a long time. Instead, money is being used to train new people.
Justin Lenker, the president of Midway Professional Firefighters Association Local 3617 and a firefighter with Midway Fire Rescue, says their salaries tend to be lower, and the cost of living on Pawley’s Island is about 11% higher than surrounding areas.