Dayton Fire Department’s candidate pool may be the most diverse in its history

The fire department began accepting applications for its recruit classes in early January, and the deadline to apply is Sunday, February 20.

The city received more than 680 applications, and early data suggests it may be the most diverse group of applicants in the department’s 159-year history, officials said.

About 62% of applicants are white, while about 30% are black and nearly 5% are Hispanic, according to data from the Dayton Civil Service Office. A small number of candidates declined to share their race or ethnicity.

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A person is in custody in connection with a house fire in the 2600 block of East Second Street in Dayton on Monday morning. Two people jumped out of the window of the burning house. Dayton Fire Department Chief Jeff Lykins said the fire was believed to be arson. MARSHALL GORBY/STAFF

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A person is in custody in connection with a house fire in the 2600 block of East Second Street in Dayton on Monday morning.  Two people jumped out of the window of the burning house.  Dayton Fire Department Chief Jeff Lykins said the fire was believed to be arson.  MARSHALL GORBY/STAFF

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A person is in custody in connection with a house fire in the 2600 block of East Second Street in Dayton on Monday morning. Two people jumped out of the window of the burning house. Dayton Fire Department Chief Jeff Lykins said the fire was believed to be arson. MARSHALL GORBY/STAFF

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Diversifying the public safety force has been a longtime goal of city administration and elected leaders, but the racial makeup of the fire department has barely budged.

However, there have been some recent gains.

In 2018, firefighters were 93% white, 4% black and 3.2% “other,” according to department data.

Today, the department is 89.5% white, 6.7% black, and 3.8% other.

Dayton’s population is less than 56% white and nearly 38% black; but city officials have consistently said the public security forces rely on recruiting candidates from across the region, which is not as diverse as the city of Gem.

A few years ago, the fire department had its most diverse class of recruits ever: nearly a quarter of recruits were minorities.

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The Dayton Fire Department is recruiting. Applications for recruitment are accepted until February 20. CORNELIUS FROLIK / STAFF

The Dayton Fire Department is recruiting.  Applications for recruitment are accepted until February 20.  CORNELIUS FROLIK / STAFF
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The Dayton Fire Department is recruiting. Applications for recruitment are accepted until February 20. CORNELIUS FROLIK / STAFF

This was the first class of recruits with participants in the city’s “Homegrown Heroes” program, which is an internal recruiting program to train city employees to pursue careers in the public safety forces.

The program likely played a role in getting a more diverse class of firefighters, according to some staff and leaders.

The fire department has taken other steps to try to interest women and minorities in careers in firefighting and emergency medical services.

Billboards were put up in West Dayton and near Wilberforce University and Central State University inviting people to “join our team”, and firefighters launched a radio ad campaign.

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The Dayton Fire Department is seeking applications for fire recruits through February 20. A billboard in West Dayton encourages people to join the team. CORNELIUS FROLIK / STAFF

The Dayton Fire Department is seeking applications for fire recruits through February 20.  A billboard in West Dayton encourages people to join the team.  CORNELIUS FROLIK / STAFF
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The Dayton Fire Department is seeking applications for fire recruits through February 20. A billboard in West Dayton encourages people to join the team. CORNELIUS FROLIK / STAFF

The fire department has partnered with Dayton Public Schools, area churches and other groups to raise awareness of recruiting opportunities, French said.

The Dayton Fire Department held a “women’s fire camp” in December for the first time in more than a decade, which aimed to stimulate interest in the field among female members of the community.

Additionally, Dayton voters approved a charter change last year that allows the city to change its hiring practices so it no longer has to hire candidates for competitive positions in order in which they obtain exam results.

Based on their scores, candidates can be placed into groups or “groups” and the city can choose who to hire from these groups, providing more flexibility in hiring decisions as factors can be taken into account. matters beyond rankings alone.

Some city leaders believe this will benefit minority job applicants.

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Dayton Fire Department Capt. Brad French, left, instructs students during fire training Wednesday, March 24, 2021 for the Dayton Public School District and the City of CTE Fire/EMS program Dayton. MARSHALL GORBYSTAFF

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Dayton Fire Department Capt. Brad French, left, instructs students during fire training Wednesday, March 24, 2021 for the Dayton Public School District and the City of CTE Fire/EMS program Dayton.  MARSHALL GORBYSTAFF

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Dayton Fire Department Capt. Brad French, left, instructs students during fire training Wednesday, March 24, 2021 for the Dayton Public School District and the City of CTE Fire/EMS program Dayton. MARSHALL GORBYSTAFF

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Dayton Mayor Jeffrey Mims Jr. said the city still has a long way to go to make its public safety forces more representative of the diversity of the communities they serve.

But he said the city was making progress and he was encouraged to see more minorities submitting nominations.

Mims said firefighting and emergency response work is difficult and dangerous, but they are good, well-paying jobs.

He said he thinks the Homegrown Heroes program and partnerships with schools, churches and community groups are paying off.

“I’m just glad we’re going in this direction,” he said.

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