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Durham Fire Department looks to boost diversity

Posted January 12

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— The Durham Fire Department is made up of mostly white men - a trend seen across the county - but officials in Durham are working to make their department more diverse.

Jonathan Hunt said he has wanted to be a fireman since he was a kid. Once he started working at the city's fire department, he realized a childhood dream like his was rare for a minority in Durham.

Hunt told WRAL News he was surprised that there were not a lot of black men, or minorities in general, in the department.

Currently, 71 percent of the department’s staff is white men. Black men make up about 19 percent, Hispanic men make up about 1 percent and women make up about 3 percent.

"The recruiting in the fire department is typically word of mouth," said Deputy Chief Chris Iannuzzi. "We've got a large number of white males, so that's whose friends and relatives are in the job.”

Iannuzzi said women and minorities do not often consider firefighting as a career simply because no one tells them about it.

"A lot of it is a lack of recognition of the opportunity to be a firefighter," he said.

Hunt, along with about 19 other firefighters, is part of a new recruiting team tasked with spreading the word about the fire department to underrepresented groups.

"We've been going to several schools," Hunt said. "We went to Riverside High School and Jordan High School. We went to the Latino festival as well."

Iannuzzi says race and gender may not matter when fighting fires, but it counts when dealing with the public.

"Durham is a very diverse city, so people will potentially feel more comfortable with someone they can relate to a little more," he said.

The Durham Fire Department has also started a high school fire academy to appeal to potential candidates earlier in life.

14 Comments

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  • Eugene Irene Jan 13, 2016
    user avatar

    Helms had little to do with the Durham Fire Dept...Bell does! he has been reelected for my memory.

  • James Scandrick Jan 13, 2016
    user avatar

    A lot of leadership gets re-elected, that we feel shouldn't have been, see Helms for years and years. As long as the hiring process is equal, the interview process is equal, and the criteria is equally met, I believe the diversity will show. Take out the internal/personal effects of the hiring process, then diversity will grow. But Earl can't keep hiring Billy's son, that needs a job, time and time again.

  • Eugene Irene Jan 13, 2016
    user avatar

    If Natasha is correct then I agree with her 100%. Everyone regardless of race should have an equal opportunity to apply for the jobs and to get qualified for the jobs through education. So long as the racial mix is only based on qualifications I would have no problem with the statistics. if that is not the case then we have a problem with the Durham leadership who seems to get elected and reelected.

  • Natasha Teasley Jan 13, 2016
    user avatar

    you people do understand that they are talking about recruiting, right? the city of Durham should not be hiring so and so's brother and not recruiting outside of the families that are already employed. by recruiting outside of the circle of friends and family of who is already working there you might actually find more qualified people. right now it sounds like the primary qualification is that you know somebody.

  • Eugene Irene Jan 13, 2016
    user avatar

    Yes James so long as those making hiring decisions based solely on qualifications whatever is the racial mix is fine with me...unless you think that one race is superior or inferior which I do not. You may want to see what the educational statistics are to see the root of the issue of not obtaining a representative number of applications from some groips.

  • James Scandrick Jan 13, 2016
    user avatar

    So Eugene, William, etc... are you saying that at the percentages posted show no problem with diversity and race? So whites are just 52% better, not more qualified, but better at the position. It is no coincidence that this is the case also in the police dptmts around the country. Even in cities that are more equal in race or even more Blacks, yet the fire dptmts and police dptmts are 80% majority white. That's not coincidence, there is obvious nepotism, good ole boy, backdoor agreements, look out for a friend going on. It's been happening forever, and thanks to Durham, for making it known, but oh, I forgot, everyone believes Durham is predominantly black anyway, but yet the public service dptmt of fire and police, don't reflect that. I bet Traffic court reflects blacks though, and we know who is stopping and passing out the tickets. Thank you Durham for wanting and needing to recognize diversity. The best have been overlooked, now maybe they can be recognized, equally.

  • Roy Hinkley Jan 13, 2016
    user avatar

    I see a lot of comments about hiring the best. There is nothing in this article that suggests otherwise.

    The indication is that they are simply adding diversity to the pool of potential applicants by changing their recruiting methods.

  • Eugene Irene Jan 13, 2016
    user avatar

    Why is every issue for leftists based on race? Did any of the geniuses in Durham leadership think to simply hire the best people available whatever is their race. It would be so nice to actually ignore race and have true equality.

  • William Mitchell Jan 13, 2016
    user avatar

    Unfortunately this is a growing trend, Law Enforcement is perhaps the greatest of them all. No need to concern yourselves with who is the best qualified to protect your civil rights, liberties and safety, so long as we have diversity within the agency. Before the question is even asked...yes...standards vary depending upon who is applying for the job. Very sad...

  • Donald Holder Jan 12, 2016
    user avatar

    "Iannuzzi said women and minorities do not often consider firefighting as a career simply because no one tells them about it."
    Somebody has to tell them that firefighting can be a career?

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