TFD Considers Nixing U.S. Citizenship Requirement As It Seeks More Applicants Of Color

Aug 16, 2021

Credit Tulsa Fire Department

The Tulsa Fire Department is trying to fix a problem within its ranks: Current firefighter demographics aren't representative of their communities.

TFD officials say they have far too few people of color. Recruitment Officer Anthony Payne said they’ve been in talks with City of Tulsa officials about changing one application requirement in particular to help change that.

"From previous administrations, it states that you must be a U.S. citizen before you can apply. We’ve run into the issue of individuals being a resident for 10 years or more, but they can’t be hired because it says U.S. citizen," Payne told city councilors last week.

While U.S. citizenship is a common requirement among fire departments nationwide, many departments only require someone be a permanent resident or have the legal right to work in the U.S.

Payne told city councilors last week that step is in addition to ongoing efforts.

"Even before the COVID pandemic, I went to multiple churches out on the north side, talked to some religious leaders, and on Sundays, I’ve talked to some of the congregations to try to broaden that pool as well," Payne said. "College career fairs, I attend most of those. I’ve targeted some HBCUs, which is historically Black colleges and universities, to kind of get that pool.

"As far as advertisement goes, I’ve purchased ads on back of city buses, I’ve purchased city bus benches in minority targeted areas -- out north, out east – to try to get that pool, to get that just kind of out there on the forefront, commercial ads, Hispanic chamber of commerce, Crossfit gyms, just multiple places."

TFD is also trying to recruit more women into firehouses. A program called Camp Fierce shows girls what a firefighting career looks like.