By Nicholas Pasion
NORTHWEST ASIAN WEEKLY
The King County Fire Department is hosting a diversity and equity workshop to recruit more minorities to the department.
The King County Fire Chiefs Association (KCFA), a leadership board that promotes fire prevention through legislation and education of the fire service and the general public, will host a firefighter recruitment and diversity workshop on Dec. 11. The workshop will host about 120 people in a daylong event that will feature a keynote speaker and several breakout sessions that will prepare participants for the fire department application process.
“That’s kind of our goal is to get more candidates, diverse candidates that are out there to give them the opportunity to learn more about what it takes to apply, or what are the first steps of what’s involved,” said Eric Hicks, the vice president of KCFA and the Fire Chief at King County Fire Protection District 20.
The workshop’s breakout sessions will cover application requirements like a physical abilities test, a psychological assessment, and a background check. Hicks said the sessions were designed to ease the application process, which can help remove barriers that may have historically barred members of the BIPOC community, women, and members of the LGBTQIA+ community from applying to the fire department.
“It’s really being involved in the community. You’ve got to have boots on the ground to really get out there, recruit people of color and women to this profession.”
Hicks said it is important for a fire department to “get out to the community,” so they can best serve the people living in it. He said fire departments may not reflect the demographics of the community, which can harm their services because minorities are more comfortable when they are represented in the department, so increasing diversity and recruiting minority groups to join the department can improve their services.
“If you look throughout King County, you’ll see that most fire departments don’t reflect the diversity within their community,” he said. “So, really, our goal is to provide access and information to qualified candidates throughout the area.”
The 2020 U.S. Census found that 49.7% of King County is female, while 66.2% is white, 7.0% is Black, 19.7% is Asian, and 9.9% is Hispanic or Latino. A 2021 report from the KCFA said that nationally on average, fire departments are 95% male and 83% white. The report stated that minorities routinely experience higher levels of discrimination in fire departments, which can lead to obstacles in advancement within the force.
Hicks said that once they have hired more women, BIPOC, and members of LGBTQIA+ community to the force, administrators will have to make an active effort to be inclusive and respectful. He said department officials, like the assistant chief, will have to be “aggressive” in their tactics to ensure they are creating an open and inclusive environment.
“We’ve got to be sure that we stay on top of things and have an open conversation,” he said. “We have to empower the people. They have to feel safe to bring things up to the administration if they can’t do it within the fire station itself.”
Over 120 people have registered for the Dec. 11 workshop—41% identify as female and 58% identify as members of the BIPOC community. While the workshop has hit its maximum occupancy, there is a waitlist where people can continue to sign-up. KCFA will continue to offer bi-annual diversity and equity workshops going forward to improve the diversity of the fire department.
“We’re hoping that we give them the best information to take the first steps to start applying,” Hicks said.
To register for future workshops, go to kingcountyfirechiefs.org/king-county-diversity-and-recruitment-workshop-event-registration.
Nicolas can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.