Durham, Raleigh fire departments spend combined $5.1 million in overtime pay during past year

1 July 2022

Vacancies in fire departments throughout the Triangle are causing big bills and tired staff.

WRAL Investigates found fire personnel in Durham and Raleigh racked up about $5.1 million in overtime pay over the past year, which has an impact on city budgets and the workers themselves.

“There are a lot of firefighters that are tired,” said Durham Fire Union President Jason Davis. “At some points, we are working 72-hour shifts.

WRAL Investigates filed public records requests and found between June 2021-June 2022, Durham Fire Department employees worked 36,000 hours of overtime, which totals $1.3 million. In the same timespan, the Raleigh Fire Department has wracked up 122,000 hours of overtime, which cost $3.8 million.

“With some of our guys that have worked a significant amount of overtime where they are getting to that point where they are just burnt out,” Davis said.

In Durham, one fire captain earned $68,968.36 of overtime in one year. In Raleigh, a fire captain brought in $57,495,04 of overtime in one year.

Durham Deputy Chief Chris Iannuzzi said turnover in the department has been higher than usual.

“We’re not immune to what is going on globally,” Iannuzzi said. “You know it’s being called the great resignation.”

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The Durham Fire Department has 425 positions and 31 vacancies. The Raleigh Fire Department has 557 positions and 66 openings.

Both departments told WRAL Investigates they have academies in the works with record-high enrollment, so relief is on the way.

“The residents are safe, all the visitors are safe, the firefighters are safe,” Iannuzzi said. “Our priority is safety, and that’s why we use that overtime.”

WRAL Investigates asked the cities of Durham and Raleigh where in the budget they found the money to pay for the overtime. The cities said they used the money they had saved from having so many vacancies.

The Durham Fire Department budgeted $371,987 for overtime pay in fiscal year year 2022. The department has paid $1,254,343 for overtime from June 2021 through June 2022. It paid $556,763 in overtime from June 2020 through June 2021.

The Raleigh Fire Department budgeted $770,036 for overtime pay in fiscal year 2022. The department paid $3,751,905.95 in overtime from June 2021 through June 2022. It paid $2,267,856.80 for overtime from June 2020 through June 2021.

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