Manchester swears in 4 new firefighters
All four are white men, and they join a department of totally white male firefighters.
Fire Chief James Burkush said he'd like to see more minorities and women among his crew of 190 firefighters. But no women or minorities are in the current pool for potential hires.
To be considered eligible, a firefighter must meet all state qualifications for firefighters. City preference is also to hire city residents, Burkush said.
“These are the people that take the test and excel. These are the people I have to choose from,” he told a reporter. All four have at least some college. All are certified. All exceed some minimum standards in categories such as emergency medical training.
Discussing minority hires, Mayor Ted Gatsas said that Burkush, whose family roots are Lebanese, is a minority. He added: “Some women make great firefighters.”
The department's one and only female firefighter, former Alderman Betsi DeVries, left the job in the late 1990s.
The four sworn in Thursday were:
-- T.J. Burkush, who received Badge No. 201, the badge worn by Chief Burkush and his father, Wilfred.
-- Thomas Faucher, who received Badge 522, that of his father, retiring Lt. Kenneth Faucher.
-- Jonathan Lopez, the grandson of former Alderman Mike Lopez. Lopez has never played up his Hispanic heritage.
-- Michael Garon.
In remarks during the induction ceremony, Burkush said he wanted the four to participate in the firefighters' union and department activities. He said they may end up leading the department one day.
“We have a lot of tradition in these four gentlemen. I know they're going to do a fine job for the city,” Burkush said.
The 2010 U.S. Census found that Hispanics make up 8 percent of the city's population; blacks, 4 percent. Asians and those of mixed race counted for another 6 percent.
Burkush said the city started reaching out to minorities four years ago when it lost a federal grant to hire firefighters over diversity issues. It now has an explorer and cadet program that tries to interest minorities and women in careers in firefighting.
“We've done as much reaching out as we can,” he said.
Capt. Scott Merrill, who participates in the state qualification process, said a few women were among the 427 tested by the state. All the women failed the physical agility test. A handful of minorities also applied, he said.
Burkush said the city's current hiring list comprises 68 people. Fifteen meet the preference for city residents; all are white men.
Just last year, the city laid off 13 firefighters for budgetary reasons. All were eventually rehired, and 15 firefighters have taken early retirement since Jan. 1, Burkush said.
He expects to hire another two in the coming months.
The department also promoted three firefighters to the rank of lieutenant: Jeff Goley, Mark Battey and Jonathan Fosher.
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