BRYAN, Texas (KBTX) – The Bryan Fire Department is hiring and it hopes there will be a diverse pool of applicants. New fire chief Richard Guisti has been speaking with Bryan council members about how they can encourage more women, Blacks, and Hispanics to consider a job with the department.
“I don’t think we can be afraid to talk about the uncomfortable things of race and so forth that are out there,” said Chief Guisti.
According to information from the City of Bryan, the department currently has 136 firefighters. There are one Asian, one Black, eight Hispanic or Latino, and 126 white firefighters. City leaders say there’s been one female firefighter in the department’s history, and she left around 1990.
“I think having a department that reflects our community would be great,” said Bryan councilman Prentiss Madison. “To see a first responder show up at your house who looks like you, that makes you feel comfortable.”
Councilman Madison says diversifying the department has been on people’s minds recently, including some council members, the local fire union and the new fire chief.
“This is already an outstanding organization. We’re just trying to make it better,” said Chief Guisti. “We make it better because we want to be able to reflect what our community is, as far as diversity and so forth, to provide the best customer service.”
Chief Guisti says a diverse department is good for firefighters because they can learn from each other and it helps them build a rapport with the community they serve.
“We’ve gotta be able to bridge that gap in order for them to be able to trust us, to come in their homes to help their loved ones when they’re having the worst day, cause that’s what this is all about is trying to help our people when they’re having the worst days of their life,” said Guisti.
It also makes a difference in their proactive measures.
“We also have to do code enforcement to make sure that buildings are up to code so we don’t burn different things down,” said Guisti. “We have public education. We gotta make sure that our people understand what is important, how they can get out of their house, how they set it up for fire safety.”
Robert Benson, III is one of the department’s newest hires. He says it’s a childhood dream come true and he’s looking forward to serving the community.
“This is a really selfless and honorable career,” said Benson. “I think that was something I was pretty much born to do, just to go help.”
Now he’s helping others realize their dreams can also become a reality by encouraging others to apply and answering questions about the hiring process.
“You go take the written test. If you pass, you’ll get placed into a pool and then they’ll call you back for the physical test. After the physical test, they should call you back for the interview, and after the interview, you’ll get a final decision. It’s a really simple process,” said Benson.
He’s finishing up the EMT portion of the academy but expects to hit the city streets in July. He’s excited to “help and the community and represent the community that I come from,” he said.
The hiring process includes filling out an application online, a basic knowledge written test, and a physical fitness test. Benson says it’s all doable and encourages everyone to apply. The written test is Friday, June 11 but you need to fill out the job application by Friday, June 4. You do not need to be certified. If you get hired, you get paid while you attend the fire academy.
The Bryan Fire Department is not alone in challenges recruiting minority applicants. In a profile of U.S. Fire Departments, the National Fire Protection Association shared information from the U.S. Labor Department. It says that from 2014-2018, 8% of career firefighters were Hispanic or Latino, 8.4% were Black, 1.1% were Asian and 4.7% were female.
We also reached out to the College Station Fire Department for their current firefighter demographics. Of the 155 firefighters, 2 are American Indian/Alaska Native, 10 are Hispanic or Latino, 4 are two or more races, 132 are white. There are currently 7 female firefighters.
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