The going rate for saving lives: What firefighters make in Wisconsin

New numbers out from the bureau of labor statistics show our  firefighters here in Wisconsin make the lowest salary compared to every other state.

Twenty-six thousand dollars: that's what the bureau of labor statistics says the median firefighter in Wisconsin is making per year.

But local departments we spoke with disagree, saying that's not what their firefighters are making.

\"You don't go into firefighting to get rich you do it because you want to go on calls and help your community,\" said Mahlon Mitchell, president of the Professional Fire Fighters of Wisconsin group. 

Its a thankless job, one  that Mitchell and West Allis Fire Chief Steve Bane know all too well..

 \"If you don't know who to call you end up calling the fire department and we come out and make the situation better,\" said Mitchell.

They risk their lives every day, so are they really making less than 30 thousand dollars a year? Mitchell says no.

\"Our median fire fighter annual salary is between $36,000 and $42,000 in Wisconsin,\" said Mitchell. 

So why are Wisconsin's numbers so low on the report?  The Bureau of Labor Statistics says they send out these surveys and if municipalities don't respond, it can skew the results.

They say volunteer departments aren't included, but Mitchell says they are.

\"There are about 800 fire departments in the state most are volunteer or paid on call. There's not many truly volunteer fire departments anymore. Normally they're on a paid on call status, where they get paid based on the calls they respond to,\" said Mitchell.

And the numbers seem to confirm that. The BSL says in Wisconsin, the top 10 percent of firefighters who responded made more than 59 thousand dollars or more; the bottom ten percent, whom Mitchell says are likely volunteers, were making 16 thousand dollars or less.

Ultimately Bane and Mitchell say, though the compensation is good in Wisconsin, there is no price tag on a life.

\"Fire fighters do risk their lives every single day fire fighters have high incidences of death in the line of duty, fire fighters have higher incidences of cancer so as a fire fighter myself I don't know that we get justly compensated,\" said Bane.

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