ERIE, Pa. (AP) - One person might be all Erie needs to diversify
its fire department.
The city's fire department has launched a campaign to recruit
more minorities using its only black firefighter, Greg Martin, who
is currently the Bureau of Fire's deputy chief of recruitment.
Martin, the former fire chief, is on the bureau's recruitment
poster and has been busy sending out letters, attending job fairs
and speaking to groups. He doesn't take great pleasure in seeing
his picture plastered all over town, but he knows why it's there.
"I'm trying to find any way possible to get the word out and
reach as many diverse and ethnic groups as possible to make them
aware that the fire service is a good career, and they're
invited," Martin said.
Erie Mayor Rick Filippi has said he would like to see more
minority candidates for jobs in the city's fire and police
departments. In February, Filippi formed a committee to find out
whether civil service procedures could be made more flexible to
allow for more minority candidates.
Fire Chief William Hertel said he wanted a better representation
of the community. Shortly after he was promoted in January, Hertel
said he wanted to reach out to the black, Latino, Bosnian and
Russian communities.
Applications to join the current 171 Erie firefighters will be
distributed June 16-20. The city has not had much success in
getting more women and minorities to apply for firefighter jobs.
Minorities returned only 16 applications when the bureau put
together a hiring list in 2001 and none finished high enough to be
hired, Martin said.
People don't apply because they think they don't have a chance,
Martin said. He's trying to change that attitude by reaching out to
dislocated workers, community centers and churches. In letters to
church pastors, Martin is asking them to personally contact members
of the congregation.
"The only way to overcome it is with information," Martin
said. "You put out as much information as possible, go around and
meet with people at every opportunity."
Martin was reluctant to pose for the recruitment posters, some
of which feature him in sunglasses and read, "We want you for the
"I like my privacy," he said. "But I'm setting out to do a
Martin is hoping for a high number of applicants. Last year, 516
applications flew out of Erie City Hall for jobs with the Bureau of
Police. This year, he's hoping for between 50 and 100 firefighter
applications filled out and returned by minorities.

(Copyright 2003 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)