Salaries of Fire Chiefs and Officers
The petition of the officers of the New York City fire department to the Board of Estimate and Apportionment for a raise of salary all along the line is one that is founded upon both justice and justification. The average fire officer is grossly underpaid. Men in private lines of endeavor far less skilled in their work and with none of the heavy responsibilities which rest upon every fire department officer, are practically all better paid. The business world generally recognizes that in order to secure the services of men valuable to their special lines and to retain their interest, they must be paid salaries commensurate with their knowledge, the importance of their position, and the responsibilities they must assume. It is only the powers governing municipal departments—and notably the fire departments— which allow their officers to struggle along at salaries that in many instances are less than the private unskilled laborer can command.
An interesting feature of the petition of the New York officers is that it asks for a raise for their commander in chief. John Kenlon, from $10,000 to $15,000, an increase of $5,000. This is eminently proper. Altogether aside from the fact that Chief Kenlon richly deserves such a raise, the present salary of the New York fire chief is ridiculously low, when the responsibilities of the job are taken into consideration. In commercial life a man in a position with equal responsibilities to those of the chief of the New York fire department would receive at least from $20,000 to $40,000. Chief Kenlon commands an army of some 6,000 men. and it is his place to see to it that both discipline and efficiency are kept up to the top notch at all times.
This army must be trained and perfected, so that it functions with 100 per cent efficiency. There must be no letting down or softening in either the training or the discipline. If either exist the deterioration of the body will be quick and distinct. Eternal vigilance is the price of perfection in the fire-fighting game.
So that it is to be hoped that the Board of Estimate and Apportionment will not hesitate to grant the fire officers’ petition for an increase in salaries, for not only is it richly deserved, but the move is in the line of the wisest and best policy.