In support of the Black Fire Brigade
Black firefighters once again show how to relate to black people in an emergency
Imagine leaving home to run an errand. Fifteen minutes later, you return to see two fire trucks and a group of firefighters circling your building. You have no clue why they’re there and what happened while you were gone. That was me this evening, when I walked onto my block, completely confused about the commotion. I looked at my own condo unit first — windows, doors, roof — nothing alarming.
As I got closer to my back door, I heard, “Watch out for trees.”
A white firefighter was headed my way. I immediately looked up, assuming a tree was on fire. I didn’t even see a branch on the sidewalk or grass.
I looked at her again, confused. “What? Why?”
“A branch could fall on your dog,” she said, looking down at my Hound mix walking beside me.
I squinted my eyes at her again, looking from my building to the other firefighters to these dangerous trees I was clearly supposed to be looking for. I opened my mouth to say something else, but then I thought, “Why was she NOT warning ME, the human being in front of her, to be careful around the trees? Why ONLY the dog walking beside me?”
I shook my head and walked on. As soon as I pulled out my keys to unlock my door, a black male firefighter was coming up the gangway. I asked him what happened, and he immediately told me not to worry. He patiently explained that it was a false alarm and a detector went off. Easy conversation. Got my answer. He was pleasant, professional and acknowledged the human being in front of him.
This is yet another firsthand example of why firefighter teams (and emergency medical technicians) really need as much diversity as they can get. This is also why I’m in support of the Black Fire Brigade — a program “aimed at increasing diversity in the EMS and fire safety profession by instructing inner-city youth in the EMS and fire curriculum.”
I used to meet black firefighters all the time when I was in elementary school. It seemed like a large group of them always showed up to our practice fire drills. As I got older, it felt like they disappeared.