Departments Still Under Pressure to Fill Quotas

Shouldn’t Firefighters Be Hired For Who They Are Not What They Are?

The seat of the fire appeared to be in the front room of a small, cabin-like, single-family residence. We were given the OK to do an interior attack. I was on the nozzle. After advancing the line to the far side of the room and knocking down the fire, I began to feel myself sinking through the floor. I instinctively wrapped my arm around the line and looked over my shoulder to see who was going to anchor me and keep me from going through the floor into a basement. Much to my concern, it was a 5 ft. 1 inch 90 lb. woman. A woman who was one of the first female firefighters in the state. While otherwise capable and qualified, her stature and strength were not going to keep my 6 ft. 220 lbs. from going through the floor to certain injury or worse. To say nothing of her tumbling in after.

Fortunately, for both of us, I had just stepped to the unseen edge of where the floor had burned through. The basement was the fire’s origin. A large heavy area rug gently lowered me to a sitting position with my feet hanging over the edge. We both regained our composure and backed out of the structure. When outside, we had a nervous laugh about the situation.

Recently, the Pensacola News Journal reported that an area county commissioner demanded the issue of diversity in the county’s fire department be discussed. He
raised issues about what he perceived as problems with the fire department culture. “I know it’s going to be a hard decision, but in this county in 2018, if you have less than five percent of a minority group represented in any department, that causes alarm”, the Commissioner said. His solution was to make the fire department’s diversity proportionately match that of the ethnic and gender make-up of the county.

As illustrated above, there are certain physical as well as mental demands made on anyone who is going to be a successful firefighter or medical first responder. It is common knowledge that in today’s society it is becoming more and more difficult to hire people who can fit the bill. To go out of your way to hire people for what they are and not their qualifications to do the job will lead to serious safety risks for department members.

The heritage and traditions of the fire service are what they are for a reason. This is not an occupation that just anyone can do. The physical and mental skill sets necessary are rigorous. Certainly, gender and ethnicity should not bar anyone from becoming part of our family, but gender and ethnicity should not override the qualities necessary to do the job safely and efficiently.

Pete Adams
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