FWFD welcomes diverse new class of 19
Nineteen men and women joined the Fort Wayne Fire Department on Thursday as part of the 90th recruit class, one of the most diverse in the department’s history.
Fire Chief Eric Lahey said the department had struggled for years to make minority gains in the ranks to reflect the community it serves.
“I am convinced that public safety entities that are not diverse are organizations that end up being organizations that are not trusted by the communities they are sworn to protect,” Lahey said from the podium at the Public Safety Academy.
The new class has two women : one black and one white : three black males and one Hispanic male, Deputy Chief Adam O’Connor said.
The class ranged in age from 21 to 35.
In order to recruit minorities, Lahey met with Iric Headley, director, Fort Wayne United; Joe Jordan, executive director, Boys and Girls Clubs; Larry Gist, president of the local NAACP; Fort Wayne Deputy Chief of Police Garry Hamilton; and FWFD District Chief Jermaine Thomas to seek help.
With 19 more firefighters ready to fulfill a mission to save lives, the department count is now at 358, O’Connor said.
Before the new recruits were sworn in, the department had 339 firefighters, which included 16 women, 23 blacks, eight Hispanics, five Asians and two Pacific Islanders.
Next year, the department will have another recruitment class of between 20 and 25 recruits. Because the department maintains a list between 300 and 400 qualified applicants, FWFD will not take new applications, O’Connor said.
Class spokesman Nicholas Racioppi said the new recruits were close-knit and knew the importance of teamwork.
“We are honored to call ourselves firefighters and EMTs,” Racioppi said.