Durham Fire Department looks to boost diversity
Posted January 12, 2016
Durham, N.C. — 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.