Some San Francisco firefighters are raking in six-figure overtime paychecks because of staffing shortages that have department managers scheduling numerous extra shifts.

The San Francisco Chronicle points to a lieutenant at Station 39 on Portola Avenue who collected $221,000 in overtime last year, raising his total salary to $363,000:

The San Francisco Fire Department used up its $38 million overtime budget and is asking for $4.1 million more. (Sam Newman/Flickr)
The San Francisco Fire Department used up its $38 million overtime budget and is asking for $4.1 million more. (Sam Newman/Flickr)

If you’re looking for a poster boy for the San Francisco Fire Department’s out-of-whack overtime, meet Lt. Gary Altenberg of Station 39 on Portola Avenue.

Thanks largely to staffing shortages that had department management ordering up extra shifts, Altenberg pulled in $221,000 in overtime last year, raising his total paycheck to $363,000.

That’s almost $50,000 more than what Fire Chief Joanne Hayes-White made.

The newspaper says the fire department already has spent its $38 million overtime budget with two months to go in the fiscal year. It’s asking the Board of Supervisors to approve another $4.1 million.

Firefighters union president Tom O’Connor tells the Chronicle some firefighters put in hundreds of hours of overtime a year. He blames chronic understaffing caused by the department’s failure to fill 400 vacant positions.

Chief Joanne Hayes-White concedes that the current OT model is not sustainable.

It has been “more efficient” to pay overtime than hire more staff, she told the Chronicle, but said, “I don’t think it’s sustainable…for someone time after time to accumulate more than 2,000 hours of overtime (a year),” she said. “And as the fire chief, I don’t support it from a safety perspective or from a mental health perspective.”

This story was contributed to by the Associated Press and the San Francisco Chronicle.

  • lanowl

    Just because he risking his life to protect us, he gets paid a fraction of a football or basketballer player’s salary? Is this right?

  • Bill

    The vast majority of their time on duty firefighters are sleeping, cooking, eating, buying groceries, hanging out. White doesn’t seem to have any sense of urgency regarding severe budget issues or managing money. The supervisors will roll over to politically entrenched firefighters. It’s a mess and don’t look to White for any help.

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