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Madison Fire Department Reaching Out To People Of Color

Madison Fire Division Chief Art Price

A lot of times you get into a job – or you actually get a job – because you have family and friends who have been in the field before you who encourage you to follow their path. People of color have historically not had those family and friends in many different types of jobs and are often more reluctant to pursue certain careers because of that.

Firefighting is no different. Recognizing this, the City of Madison Fire Department has announced the opening of their hiring process for the position of firefighter with a special encouragement for people of color and women to apply.

“To become a firefighter, you don’t necessarily have to have a firefighter background. I didn’t start out that way,” says Madison Fire Division Chief Art Price, who first applied at the MFD 25 years ago to this day. “I investigated. I went out and took a look at it and it seemed very interesting to me at the time. Over time, once I really realized that this was about community service with the things that we do and the way that we help people, I really realized that this job was tailor-made for me. I was amazed that this job actually existed.”

The City of Madison is an Equal Opportunity Employer and the Madison Fire Department has been working on diversity for many years. But they want to do even better. “We’ve been trying to let more people know about this job and to increase the diversity at the Department,” Price says. “We want people of color and women to know that this is a viable option for them. From the outside looking in, they may have the tendency to think, ‘Oh, I can’t do that and they don’t want me there.’ I’m here to tell you that you can do it and we do want you.”

The City of Madison employs over 350 firefighters, some of whom are also officers, paramedics, or apparatus engineers. No matter what your job in the fire station may be, you’re still a firefighter. Besides extensive training in firefighting, all firefighters are also Emergency Medical Technicians (EMTs), and Hazardous Materials Technicians. Many firefighters become members of special teams within the Department, skilled in technical rescue, scuba, or additional hazardous material specialties.

The process to become a firefighter begins with an online application period that just started and runs through Dec. 6. “Get yourself on the website and fill out an application if it is something that sounds interesting to you,” Price says. “Don’t self-eliminate yourself by thinking you can’t do it. The first step is that application.”

Hiring data clearly shows that community leaders and those who work in the community are the best resource in efforts to recruit a diverse workforce that represents the community that MFD serves.

“I’m glad I have Johnny [Winston, an MPD Division Chief and longtime Madison firefighter] helping me out with recruitment because he knows a lot of people in Madison,” Price smiles. “It’s so important to get the word out and let all people know that this is a great career field.”

It’s actually more than a career field, Price says. It’s a family. “We take care of each other and we look out for each other. There are a lot of physical components of this job. There’s a physical and mental aspect that you have to maintain. Educationally, we’re constantly training and evolving because techniques change, time changes, technology changes. We get older. We have to stay fit. It’s the perfect career field to grow into and become a part of. It’s unique because when you come to work, you’re working 24 hours at a time. You are living with people for 24 hours so you develop that second family away from home.”

Firefighters are recognized throughout the community. “If somebody is going on or somebody needs help, we are the first in line to go help. It’s what we do. It’s just a great feeling to be involved in this just because of that,” Price says. “And we have a great salary and benefits to go along with the professional job that we do.

Anyone with questions regarding the Firefighter position or this request, should contact Division Chief Art Price at (608)266-4256 or aprice@cityofmadison.com or Liza Tatar at (608)513-3446 or ftatar@cityofmadison.com.