Local News

Raleigh Chief Looks for More Minority Firefighters

Posted June 12, 2007 7:48 p.m. EDT
Updated June 13, 2007 8:38 a.m. EDT

— A yearlong effort to add more African-American firefighters to the ranks of the Raleigh Fire Department is bearing fruit. But officials said they plan to keep working on increased diversity.

Before Fire Chief John McGrath joined the department last year, African-American men represented just 12 percent of Raleigh's firefighting force. The city is more than a quarter African-American.

A graduating class of recruits last fall bumped that minority percentage to 14 percent, and McGrath said he plans to continue the push.

"I don't think that the Raleigh Fire Department ever tried to exclude anybody," he said. "We realized that we needed to reach out and make people aware of who we are and what we're about, and we needed to market ourselves."

Twelve members of the department have been dedicated to recruitment year-round, attending job fairs and other community events to find potential recruits. Officials said they expect about 600 applications this year -- the application process opens at the end of June -- for 15 to 20 positions.

McGrath said the city doesn't have a quota of minority candidates that it wants to fill. Instead, he said, the recruitment effort should lead to a more diverse pool of candidates.

Triangle Urban League Chairman Keith Sutton said the fire department has made progress in minority hiring, but the effort needs to continue.

"If you increase the pool and you do that consistently, then over time, you'll see that improvement," Sutton said.