KILGORE — The Kilgore City Council has approved a $150-per-month pay increase for Kilgore firefighters who live within the city limits. Fire Chief Johnny Bellows proposed raising the incentive pay from $150 to $300 to improve employee retention and attract new firefighters to live within the community.

The council voted unanimously at its meeting Jan. 28 to approve the hike.

“The Kilgore Fire Department is one of the lowest-paid in the state,” Bellows said. “What we would hope this would do is help to bring the firefighter salary of the Kilgore firefighters close to the level of our average around this area.”

Bellows said firefighters in Henderson start out between $42,000 and $43,000, while those in Kilgore start out at $39,000.

“This would enable the few that want to be part of our city and be dedicated to our city and be able to respond from our city to get to that level of what Henderson makes,” he said.

He also said the lower pay rate affects employee retention.

“It makes it difficult to recruit and retain employees because of our lower pay. We have an average of 15 to 20% resignations per year. It’s costly for clothing, equipment and training, and it’s costly to train our new employees,” he said.

Bellows said the initial cost of the increase would be minimal, because the department currently has only three employees living within the city limits.