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Pittsburgh firefighters union worried about lack of new recruits

Pittsburgh firefighters union worried about lack of new recruits
Pittsburgh firefighters union worried about lack of new recruits 02:53

PITTSBURGH (KDKA) — Being a firefighter once meant a position of high standing in the community. 

But these days, fewer and fewer people are hearing the call to become a firefighter. 

"You see it even from the volunteer services in the suburbs to the urban forces here in the city," said Ralph Sicuro of the Pittsburgh Firefighters Union. "There is less and less people wanting to do this career."

Last week, KDKA-TV showed how police recruits in the city have slowed to a trickle. While not as severe, recruiting in the fire bureau is following a similar decline.

In 2008, 1,500 applicants signed up to take the test, and 618 made the eligibility list. Since then, the numbers have dropped steadily. Last year, 492 took the test, and 206 proved eligible.

"We've seen a decline of 67 percent over a decade," Sircuro said. "Instead of waiting until we hit the levels that we see our law enforcement in, we need to start to make changes now."

Women and minorities have long been underrepresented in the fire bureau, more so than with the police. While only 11 percent of the police bureau is African American and 14 percent female, the fire bureau is only 6 percent African American and has only four female firefighters.

And while the hope is the lifting of the residency requirement will help, Sicuro said there is a need for more minority and female recruiting efforts and some changes to the testing and physical standards. But he said the shortage of applicants is nationwide. 

"Not exactly sure why this is," he said. "Is it the public interaction? This is not a job that is appealing to them for some reason. We don't really know. We need to make changes because what we're doing isn't working."

While no one is exactly sure why, the numbers show fewer and fewer people are being called to serve in public safety. 

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