Orange County Firefighter Encourages Asian Community to Consider Public Service
The Orange County Fire Rescue Department (OCFRD) is looking for a few good men and women to join its ranks. Joining the recruitment campaign is OCFRD paramedic Joshua Ritter, who is passionate about bringing in more firefighters of Asian descent like himself.
“When I became a firefighter 15 years ago, I was in the extreme minority as far as Asian Americans were concerned, and I wondered why this was the case,” said Ritter, currently of engineer rank with Engine 44 Battalion 7. “I quickly realized it was a cultural thing, so I set out to change perceptions.”
Ritter, whose mother is Korean and father is German-American, began connecting with the local Asian community. He discovered third- and fourth-generation Asian Americans tend to be more open-minded about choosing careers in public service over medicine or law. Armed with this knowledge, he decided to spread the word about the benefits of a career in the fire department.
“Many younger Asians are hitting adulthood and realizing they don’t necessarily have to follow the same career paths as their parents,” he said. “Initially, my mom was baffled when I told her I was joining Orange County Fire Rescue, but today she brags about me all the time.”
The memory of 9/11 was still fresh in Ritter’s mind when he graduated high school in 2005, and the sacrifices those firefighters made had a lasting impact on him. A hurricane also came through Central Florida back then, and he remembered firefighters removing debris and helping residents.
Ritter joined Orange County Fire Rescue straight out of high school and has since broadened his experiences by serving four years in the Air Force and volunteering on a seven-month National Science Foundation mission to Antarctica as a proud Orange County Fire Rescue representative.
Ritter’s community outreach ties in nicely with his current training assignment working with new fire recruits during a 10-week orientation program.
“Our goal is to build a department with the best possible firefighters for the job and part of that effort is to create a department that also reflects the wonderful diversity within the community that we serve,” said Fire Chief James M. Fitzgerald.
Orange County is committed to continuing recruitment to reach diverse candidates, and Ritter is happy to be an ambassador in that regard. “I tell young people if they want excitement and action, and the opportunity to be a hero and help people, the fire department is the way to go,” he said. “Welcoming more representation from the Asian community is a great thing for the department.”
Interested candidates should apply via ocfrd.com/interestcard.
Photo cutline: Orange County Firefighter Joshua Ritter.