FDNY Enlists Diverse Group of Firefighters to Attract Recruits

CBS 2 - February 07, 2017

by CBS Local

NEW YORK (CBSNewYork/AP) — The FDNY is looking for some diversity.

As CBS2’s Brian Conybeare reported, the Fire Department on Monday launched an effort to boost the number of women and minority firefighters in a $10 million recruitment effort.

Four firefighters who also work as recruiters were chosen as the faces for banners that will be hung up at all 217 firehouses in the city.

“We want to do all we can to reach out to every group,” said FDNY Commissioner Daniel Nigro.

The FDNY chose two men and two women to attract potential recruits.

Currently, only .005 percent of the city’s bravest are female, and 19 percent are minorities – vastly below the city’s overall population breakdown.

“Certainly we’d like the department to become more diverse. We live in a very diverse city with diversity comes strength.”

FDNY Lt. Andrew Brown is with Ladder Company 176 in Brownsville, Brooklyn, where the event to announce the recruitment effort was held with young people in the audience.

“Being a young man from the West Indies it was a dream of mine to become a firefighter long before I knew how to attain it,” said Lt. Andrew Brown, who works at Ladder Co. 176 and is one of the faces of the campaign.

Brown said he sees himself as a role model for other African-Americans, WCBS 880’s Peter Haskell reported.

“Just showing them that it’s attainable, it doesn’t have to be a far-fetched idea,” Brown said.

He had a message of encouragement for the young people.

“I’m an example of what you can accomplish if you take the first step,” Brown said. “I’ve done it. I’m showing you how to do it. Now it’s your turn.”

The recruiting effort stems from a 10-year legal battle and a federal judge ruling the FDNY intentionally discriminated against minority applicants in the past.

Nigro said of the 87,000 recruits who have signed up at 5,900 recruitment events, 39 percent are women and 89 percent are people of color. According to Nigro, both of these groups are underrepresented throughout the fire department.

The Firefighters’ Union has some concerns, telling CBS2 in a statement that they want to “ensure that the most physically fit candidates that can meet the standards are hired.”

“It’s a physically demanding job. I would be lying if I said it wasn’t,” said FDNY firefighter Serena Olmo. “I think when you train and prepare yourself, this is a very rewarding job as well.”

The department is also using social media with its @JoinFDNY account. Firefighter Jackie-Michelle Martinez with Engine Company 275 in Queens tweeted: “I hope everyone can look at me & envision yourself doing the same thing.”

“It’s a great career for women,” Martinez said. “It’s a job that most women don’t even think about doing, but they can do this job.”

Martinez is only one of 58 women in the nearly 11,000-member department.

The exam is once every four years.

Filing for the FDNY’s entrance exam opens April 5. For more information on how to apply to become an FDNY firefighter, text 313131 and enter “JoinFDNY,” or visit www.JoinFDNY.com.