Los Angeles firefighter earned $360,000 in overtime last year battling raging wildfires

More than half of the 53,000 city employees in Los Angeles collected overtime pay last fiscal year, with some firefighters earning more than $200,000 in OT and one making $360,000 above salary, the city comptroller reports.

The report comes as the city has worked to quell several fires burning in the area: The recent Getty Fire burned a little more than 1 square mile of real estate near the Getty Center. Five firefighters suffered injuries and 25 homes were damaged or destroyed.

Last year, the Woolsey Fire killed three people and destroyed more than 1,600 homes and businesses. L.A. Controller Ron Galperin says overtime is a "critical tool" in protecting communities from crime, emergencies and natural disasters.

“We see its importance first-hand each time the city deploys firefighters around the clock to combat wildfires, like the catastrophic Getty and Woolsey fires," Galperin said.

More wildfire coverage: Oregon comes to California's aid in fighting hotter fires: 'When help is needed, help will come'

The report, “On the Clock: Review of City Employee Overtime,” highlights overtime spending in the 2018-19 fiscal year and identifies the top earners by department and job classification.

City firefighters earn a base pay of between $65,000 and $91,000.

The report found that sworn Los Angeles Fire and Los Angeles Police department employees earned 77% of all the city's overtime dollars, largely because their thin staffing require overtime. They averaged $27,737 each.

Los Angeles has fewer firefighters and police officers per capita than other large U.S. cities, the report found.

More than 90% percent of sworn LAFD and LAPD personnel, and 40% of civilian and other employees, earned overtime pay in the last fiscal year.

One firefighter reported 5,616 hours of overtime — 64% of all hours in the year.

"Departments properly approved and substantiated the majority of sworn and civilian overtime," the report said. "There is clearly a need for better oversight and regulation.”

Other departments also had workers collecting large overtime pay. One traffic officer received $174,348 in overtime, and a Building and Safety Department employee made $152,163.

U.S. Census Bureau statistics place the average household income in Los Angeles at almost $100,000.

Galperin recommends the city use data analysis to determine when additional hires would save money. He also wants city departments to track individual overtime requests and set limits on overtime an employee can earn.

"The city needs better oversight to prevent employee burnout and ensure the efficient use of public dollars," the report says.

This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: California fires: LA firefighter salary gets major boost from overtime