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Report: Minority Numbers Still Lag at Raleigh Fire Department

A new report shows less than 15 percent of the Raleigh Fire Department is made up of minorities.

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A new report shows less than 15 percent of Raleigh Fire Department personnel are minorities.

When Fire Chief John McGrath was hired in 2005, he was charged with improving the racial makeup of the department. Two years later, the new report shows there's been little improvement.

A recent census report shows that out 549 employees in the department, 81 are minority. There are even fewer minorities in management. Of 109 captains, six are minorities. There are 24 minority lieutenants.

Welton Jones was the second black firefighter hired by the city of Raleigh. His wall holds plaques honoring him as the first black firefighter to retire from the city. But Jones said making history hasn't been easy.

"They kept hiring whites,” Jones said. “Then, when I would complain about it, they would stick a black in every now and then."

This week, Jones went before the City Council to complain about the low minority numbers. Mayor Charles Meeker told WRAL the city has been actively trying to recruit minorities. Still, the overwhelming majority of firefighters are white males.

“There is only so much that you can do,” Meeker said. “But the new fire chief has been very successful. There were over 200 minority applicants, about 15 selected. This is a very competitive position."

Meeker said the city is reaching out to black churches and other organizations to recruit more minorities. McGrath is also working on encouraging more minorities in the department to apply for promotions.

However, Jones said more needs to be done to change the racial makeup of the department. He told WRAL he's willing to do what it takes to make sure history doesn't repeat itself

"There are stations here in Raleigh right now where there is not one black,” he said. "I'm going to fight it all the way.”