The city of Lancaster swore Johnson in on March 26th in front of council members, and he began his first day at the station on March 27th. As the new Fire Chief, he hopes to meet citizens’ needs and even exceed their expectations, according to NBC.
The Lancaster Fire Department includes three stations with a Fire Chief, Assistant Fire Chief, Fire Marshal, three Battalion Chiefs, 11 captains, 42 firefighters, and two administrative assistants.
As the department’s first African-American Fire Chief, Johnson hopes to recruit more African-American men, plus women in general.
According to statistics from the U.S. Census Bureau, 68.7 percent of Lancaster is African-American, while 20.4 percent is white. According to Johnson, his department only has one female and one African-American firefighter, despite the demographics. Despite this high African-American population, Johnson realized that minority firefighters must become recruited because many do not apply. This may be because some struggle with testing, so many fear applying.
The African American Firefighter Museum states that there is still a decrease in the hiring of African-American firefighters today. Johnson’s department is not alone in this issue – others also have noticed the same disparity. Over time, his new recruitment initiatives will help solve this issue within his department. In addition, he can connect with African-Americans in the city or region and encourage them to pursue a firefighting position.
As the new Fire Chief, Johnson also hopes to evaluate the facility, equipment, and staffing, according to NBC. Dallas News states that female firefighters are scarce in general because few women apply and only a small number meet the physical requirements.
On another note, Johnson recognizes the importance of investing in kids. Johnson recalled how the firefighting station across the street from his childhood house in South Dallas in the 1970s didn’t allow kids to come in the station and get a drink of water, so he ensures children and the entire community have an opportunity to set foot inside his fire station.
“So I remember when I made lieutenant and got an opportunity to work at that actual station, one of the things I did was open the door wide open, invited all the kids walking home from school in to have water,” he said. “I was excited to be able to do that.”
This practice is crucial because letting kids into fire stations sparks a curiosity in them that could develop into a lifelong passion. Although some kids abandon their childhood dreams, others chase them and become today’s brave firefighters.
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