Orange County’s New Fire Recruits Make History For Diversity
The Orange County Fire Rescue Department’s (OCFRD) newest fire recruits have made history as the most diverse class hired by the Department. This past November, OCFRD welcomed Class 91, which includes 66 aspiring firefighters, half of whom are of Hispanic, Black or Asian descent. Also, 19 of the 66 new recruits are female, which means women now represent 9 percent of all firefighters at OCFRD, a number more than twice the national average (4 percent) for all career firefighters, according to the National Fire Protection Association.
The effort was a tremendous undertaking and made possible through the launch of the Department’s “Go Beyond” campaign, which was designed to recruit the best candidates who also reflect the diverse and inclusive community in Orange County.
OCFRD often hires candidates who have obtained EMS and fire school certificates. However, as a non-certified program, Class 91 was open to individuals who did not already have such credentials but did have a strong desire to pursue a career in fire rescue. Candidates completed a lengthy application, passed a vigorous physical ability test, and submitted and cleared in-depth background screenings before interviewing with the Office of the Fire Chief.
The non-certified program is unique in that it sponsors recruits through fire and EMS school, providing an opportunity for those who may otherwise have faced financial challenges or hardships that prevented them from earning their fire or EMS certificates. In the past, the program has produced candidates who have moved up in their careers, some even earning the rank of chief.
OCFRD designed the “Go Beyond” campaign with a talented creative team assisted by firefighters. Designed prior to COVID-19, the campaign was able to navigate through the challenges brought on by a pandemic by incorporating new and innovative strategies. The team turned to billboards, smartphone technology, social media and virtual recruitment sessions. Safety measures were put in place to continue to coach candidates through the physical portions of testing.
“I truly commend the entire team for their hard work and innovation to help bring this class together,” said OCFRD Fire Chief James Fitzgerald. “I’m excited to see these candidates succeed and know they will go on to save lives.”
Class 91 started their journey with OCFRD in November 2020 and is expected to proudly serve the citizens and visitors of Orange County by fall of 2021.
If you or someone you know is interested in learning more about becoming an Orange County firefighter, candidates should submit an interest card for the latest on hiring and get in touch with recruitment. Visit ocfrd.com/careers for details.