The City of Pittsburgh says it's working to reduce barriers keeping women and minorities from applying to be firefighters; KDKA's Nicole Ford reports.
KYM GABLE: There are some new ideas on the table to recruit firefighters to the city of Pittsburgh. After a year-long study, the changes are aimed at bringing more women and minorities into the field. Nicole Ford talked to one of only five female firefighters in the city about this new effort.
NICOLE FORD: Just 1% of the firefighters in the city of Pittsburgh are women. Now, just because it's a male-dominated field doesn't mean women aren't capable of stepping up to the task. The city is hoping new changes will attract more women to take the test. She may not be 6'2" or 250 pounds.
KARI BURNHAM: There's still people today that don't know that females can be firefighters.
NICOLE FORD: But Lieutenant Kari Burnham can do pretty much anything a man can do.
KARI BURNHAM: I've always been the person that goes against stereotypical jobs.
NICOLE FORD: She recently climbed the ranks to Lieutenant in the Pittsburgh Bureau of Fire, a bureau that currently has only 5 women out of 474 firefighters. That's why the city is working to break the barriers to help recruit more women and minorities to join the ranks.
BILL PEDUTO: To apply to be a firefighter, you have to live in the city. We want to be able to expand that scope so that people can apply from outside of the city, and then once they get the position, go through the training, move into the city.
NICOLE FORD: Mayor Bill Peduto says this is part of a year-long study. And the goal is to have public safety employees better represent the community in terms of gender and diversity.
KARI BURNHAM: Every call we go on, you're going to see males, females, kids, and especially kids, kids are always like, oh, look, there's a woman. Little girls love to see it.
NICOLE FORD: Burnham says it takes grit to do this job. But she says, even more so, you have to have heart, whether you're a man or a woman.
KARI BURNHAM: I would love to encourage other people to be like that, not just minorities, females, but anybody that does this job, share the passion with them and make everything better.
NICOLE FORD: Some other changes include a pass-or-fail physical exam rather than judging the candidates on what he or she can do. Also, there's already a new written modern test in place. In Manchester, Nicole Ford, KDKA News.