The Boston Fire Department is looking into creating a cadet program in an effort to make the department more diverse.
The department appeared before the city council in a hearing to discuss the proposed program. Currently, the department is about 72 percent white males. According to the Chief of Diversity Danielson Tavares, fire cadet programs have been picking up across the country and so far 14 cities in the U.S. have created them this year.
Tavares said they are still working out the details, but it would look a lot like the police cadet program.
Juan Sanchez of the fire department said the city has also created a teen fire academy in the summer, which is going on its third year. It is a 6 to 8-week program.
“They’d get the insight into what it means to be a firefighter,” said Sanchez.
The teen fire academy is another way for the city to recruit more people into the department, as well as more Boston residents.
Another big hindrance for people applying is the exam that costs $200. Sanchez says some people cannot afford that price.
Councilor Michael Flaherty suggested the exam be free to all Boston residents who want to become firefighters.
“We want the best and brightest to apply,” he said.
He also mentioned that, in the cadet program, the city needs to make sure cadets can handle the physical demands of the job when it comes time.
Councilor Tim McCarthy agreed.
“If someone I love is in a fire, I want someone who can pick that person up and get them out,” he said.
Councilor Josh Zakim said it is important that the department represents the community it serves and is diverse.
“We have to make sure this is done in a thoughtful manner,” he said.
Mayor Marty Walsh and the city council voted in favor of the new cadet program. Now, it goes off to Beacon Hill and needs to get approval before it becomes a reality in the city.