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Pittsburgh Bureau of Fire "overwhelmingly male," audit finds

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PITTSBURGH (KDKA) -- Pittsburgh's Bureau of Fire is "overwhelmingly male" and firefighters are the only full-time city employees without any paid parental leave, according to an audit released on Tuesday.  

City Controller Michael Lamb says the city has more than 700 firefighters, but in 2022, less than 1% were women, which is "significantly lower" than the national average of 5%. Lamb says a lack of paid parental leave could be a factor affecting hiring and retaining firefighters. 

"Firefighters, like all full-time city employees, absolutely must be given access to paid family leave," Lamb said in a press release. "The City of Pittsburgh must be a fair and equitable employer, and by denying firefighters a family leave benefit, we are acting neither fairly nor equitably.  It's my hope that the current contract being negotiated extends this benefit to our firefighters."  

The audit also points out issues with the bureau's capital assets. In 2017, a building inventory of all city facilities found that $16,000,000 was needed to make repairs to all firehouses to keep them functional and from deteriorating further. But the audit says little progress has been made citywide in facility investment, and auditors recommend the bureau implements a routine maintenance schedule to reduce the buildup of repair costs. 

Auditors recommend pursuing grants and other federal support, adding that because nearly all firehouses were built without the consideration of women, there's an opportunity to modernize the buildings with bathroom and bedroom facilities for women.

The audit, which can be found online, also covers creating a vehicle replacement schedule and the performance testing of ladders, hoses and hose nozzle/appliances.

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