PUEBLO, Colo. - Pueblo needs more firefighters who aren't white.
The deadline for people to apply in the Steel City is September 30th, and the test is in mid-October. Fire officials tell us they need more applicants on top of the nearly 250 who have applied to join the Pueblo Fire Department. They expect more than 100 more will apply before the deadline ends.
However, the problem isn’t filling stations with qualified firefighters -- the biggest problem is finding people who represent Pueblo's demographics.
The city is more than 50 percent Hispanic, and a vast majority of the firefighters in Pueblo are white. That's why leadership is pushing harder than ever for more diversity.
“We are just trying to have a fire department that better reflects our community,” said Assistant Pueblo Fire Chief Will Gray. "Our efforts to diversify isn't going to change standards, but to go out into the different community groups and just let them know what we are doing. It is available. It is a good job. The city of Pueblo is a good employer, and we try to encourage them to apply."
Gray says they have reached out to a number of different groups in order to recruit possible firefighters of color. These include the Latino Chamber of Commerce, the NAACP in Pueblo, the Junior League, and the Human Rights Commission.
The department has also held a number of community meetings at the fire stations, the library, and future meetings at the community college.
One ethnic group that has been sorely missing from the Pueblo fire department is the African American community.
“In a matter of 68 years there has never been a black firefighter so the black community has always wondered why,” said Eugene Polk who many in Pueblo consider Pueblo's first black firefighter. However, he never actually worked for the city.
Polk worked as a firefighter at the Transportation Technology Center Inc. in 1974 in Pueblo. Five years later, Polk would serve as a firefighter in Colorado Springs. Today he lives in Pueblo and helps the local department recruit in the city's African American community.
“They are working to take steps towards this," said Polk. "I think it’s going to eventually happen. When? We don’t know.”
However, the first Pueblo black firefighter could come sooner than later. So far Polk says he has spoken with a few potential black firefighters applying this year, and some that wish to apply in the future.
You can begin the application process at the city’s website under jobs.