Firefighter Salary UK - What do fireman earn? Is it enough? (2024)


The National Joint Council for Local Authority Fire and Rescue Services (NJC) is the body responsible for determining firefighters’ pay and conditions.

The Fire Brigades Union (FBU) represents over 85% of the Fire and Rescue Services’ uniformed staff. The FBU previously severed its links with the Labour Party, albeit rejoined when Jeremy Corbyn was later elected Labour Leader.

What is a firefighter salary in the UK?

There is a nationally-agreed base salary structure for the UK’s thirty one thousand firefighters.

According to, the median salary of a competent UK firefighter was £36,496 in March 2023. This was approximately 15% above the UK median wage.

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As of March 2023, the starting annual salary for a trainee firefighter with the Berkshire Fire Service was £25,844. When fully trained and competent, this rises to £34,501. Higher rates apply for overtime.

Fire supervisor salaries are typically £39,000 or above, with fire safety investigators earning as much as £51,000.

A station manager’s earning potential is between £40,161 and £44,297 plus overtime rates, subject to the officer’s level of competence.

Further advancement to the role of crew manager, watch manager and then area manager can attract salaries of between £46,254 and £59,565, depending on the level of competence and role.

A retained firefighter is typically a volunteer who is on call to assist the wholetime firefighter service, particularly in rural areas. Retained firefighters earn a retainer, such that volunteer firefighters in Hereford and Worcester in 2023 were paid a retainer of £2,339 increasing to £2,993 once they become fully qualified ‘competent’ after a course of training, a process which takes up to three years. In addition retained firefighters receive an hourly rate and an additional incident call out charge.

In 2022, the median annual earnings for all full time employees in the United Kingdom was £33,000. According to the Department for Education, the average salary for a classroom teacher was £39,000. The website suggested the average journalist was earning £25,785, the average solicitor was earning £38,912, and the average sales director earning £65,783.

2023 Dispute

In the midst of the 2022/2023 cost of living crisis with inflation running at over 10%, over 80% of FBU members voted for strike action in December 2022.

The proposed strike was subsequently delayed while talks took place in early 2023 with employers. The dispute ended when firefighters overwhelmingly (96%) voted to accept a new pay offer. The settlement provided a 7% increase in pay backdated to July 2022, plus an additional 5% from July 2023.

Had the strikes gone ahead, they would have been the first UK-wide fire service strikes over pay for 20 years, the last being in 2003.

History of fireman’s pay in the UK

The current Firefighters’ pay formula dates back to the settlement of the last major fire service strikes of 1977 and 1978. This linked pay to the ‘upper quarter’ of ‘industrial workers’ wages.

Since that time, the number, importance and relative pay rates of ‘industrial workers’ has declined dramatically. At the same time, the demands being placed on firefighters, through expanded duties and staff shortages, has risen.

In 2001 and 2002, Firefighters and the FBU argued increasingly that they were underpaid for the dangerous and demanding work they did, and the FBU began a campaign calling for Firefighters’ basic pay to be increased to £30,000 per annum – an increase of 40 per cent.

An initial offer of four per cent from the employers at the fire authority was rejected by the FBU, which was followed by a phased offer of 16 per cent (which would have taken basic pay up to £25,000) conditional on substantial ‘modernisation’ – meaning reforming working practices and job losses. This deal fell through, and a 48-hour strike began on 13th November 2002, followed by an eight-day strike which started on 22nd November.

After this strike, the then Prime Minister Tony Blair made a statement to the Commons warning that any pay increase above four per cent would have to be compensated with reforms to working practices.

Firefighter Salary UK - What do fireman earn? Is it enough? (3)

Fire fighters on strike in London’s docklands during 2003.

The Bain Review published on 16th December 2002, which was commissioned by the Deputy Prime Minister earlier in the dispute as a means of depoliticising the row, set out an extensive programme for modernisation, linked to a two-year 11 per cent pay settlement.

The FBU rejected the Bain report, but the employers took it up as a precondition of resuming negotiations, resulting in more strikes, until eventually an agreement was reached in June 2003.

A new Pay & Conditions document provided for a staged increase in pay – 4% backdated to November 2002; 7% with effect from November 2003; and 4.2% in July 2004, giving firefighters a cumulative rise of 16%, bringing basic pay for a competent firefighter to £25,000.

However, the pay increases were dependent on progress being made in the modernisation of services and the National Employers decided that sufficient progress had only been made for 3.5% to be paid in November 2003. Further strike action was threatened, until it was made clear in 2004 that the remaining 3.5% would be paid and backdated to November 2003.

In June 2003, the Government published its White Paper, ‘Our Fire and Rescue Service’, which set out plans for the Office of the Deputy Prime Minister to play a much more active role in pay disputes in future. The Fire Services Bill 2003 gave the Secretary of State a power to impose a solution to fire disputes, to impose conditions on fire brigade members and to issue general directions to Fire Authorities.

The FBU claimed that the 2002/2003 pay dispute was prolonged by the Government’s prevarication: firstly, in not endorsing the 16 per cent offer, and latterly in intervening in support of the employers but without providing additional funding.

The local authorities believed that the demand by firefighters for a 40 per cent rise in firefighter salaries was unreasonable, partly because a settlement had earlier been reached with other local authority staff. The Government also rejected the 40 per cent demand on the basic grounds of cost, and the additional impact it would have in driving up other public sector pay claims. During the dispute, the Governor of the Bank of England, Sir Edward George, spoke out to warn that the deal would fuel inflation and unemployment.

The Army’s ‘green goddess’ fire engines were deployed during the strikes and their shortcomings, in comparison to the Fire Service’s modern engines, led many to call for the Government to ban Fire Service strikes, but this option was rejected in the White Paper.

The Comprehensive Spending Review of October 2010 outlined significant cuts to most government departments and public services necessitated by the need to reduce the scale of the UK’s huge deficit. Chancellor George Osborne said the fire and rescue services could limit cuts to their budgets “in return for substantial operational reform”. However, the Fire Brigades Union responded angrily, claiming that tens of thousands of jobs were under threat because of the budget cuts planned for the next four years.

The FBU was strongly critical of the increases in firefighter pension contributions announced for April 2012 to March 2013, describing them as “an unwelcome step at a time of pay freeze and high rates of inflation”. These pension scheme reforms came into effect in 2015. This led to a fresh series of localised fireman strikes with 50 strikes taking place in 2013.


The following was the fire service pay scale for London in 2021.

Trainee Firefighter£27,750
Firefighter (Development)£28,861
Firefighter (Competent)£37,032 – £37,984
Leading Firefighter£40,416 – £41,369
Sub Officer£42,273 – £43,097
StationOfficer£44,499 – £48,210
StationCommander£54,848 – £60,754
Group Commander£62,158 – £69,128

[Source London Fire Brigade Website – 2021].


“The overwhelming vote by FBU members to accept the improved offer means the dispute is resolved on terms that are favourable to firefighters”. – FBU general secretary Matt Wrack, March 2023

“In the 1970s it was hard to recruit fire fighters because this was a low paid industry. We cannot and will not allow it to go back to being a low paid industry.” – FBU general secretary Matt Wrack, speaking at the FBU conference – May 2011

“Fire authorities are in the best position to know what is needed in their areas. It is good news that government has listened to our call for the resources to help us plan locally and put Fire Control equipment to good use.” – Cllr Brian Coleman, Chairman of the LGA Fire Services Management Committee, responding to the announcement of £74 million fire control centre funding – March 2012

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Firefighter Salary UK - What do fireman earn? Is it enough? (2024)
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