City of Pittsburgh to Revamp Recruitment of Minority and Women Firefighters

PITTSBURGH, PA (March 30, 2021) The City of Pittsburgh will introduce improvements to boost recruitment of qualified women and minorities to be firefighters through the recommendations of a year-long Firefighter Barrier Assessment study.

Of the Fire Bureau’s 474 firefighters, five are women and 53 are minorities.

After talks between Mayor William Peduto and International Association of Fire Fighters Local No. 1, the Department of Human Resources and Civil Service (HRCS) contracted with the National Testing Network in late 2019 to study ways to increase diversity within the Bureau of Fire, and it was submitted to the City late last year. After further discussions among HRCS, the Department of Public Safety, the Fire Bureau and IAFF new recruitment methods are ready to be introduced.

“All of our Public Safety bureaus strive to reflect the make up of the communities they serve,” Public Safety Director Wendell Hissrich said. “In Pittsburgh, the population consists of 52% women and 28% minorities, yet the number of applications to the Pittsburgh Bureau of Fire does not currently mirror those numbers. The City is committed to attracting a more diverse workforce to choose a rewarding career with the Pittsburgh Bureau of Fire. This way we will better understand and communicate with our neighbors, keeping us all safe.”

“A fire department is stronger when it understands its community and reflects the diversity of the community,” said Ralph Sicuro, President of the Pittsburgh Fire Fights, IAFF Local No. 1. “We will provide a higher level of service to our communities with a diverse organization because different viewpoints are embraced and effective making a healthier, more functional, more innovative and creative department. Understanding leads to safety.”

Recommendations for the improved recruitment of qualified minority and women candidates to be Pittsburgh firefighters included:

  • Update the written exam to one that is more modern, has less group differences, and is appropriate for rank order use. Using written exams to rank order requires evaluating the impact within the upper scores on the test to ensure the barrier is not present.
  • Change the physical test to the Candidate Physical Abilities Test (CPAT) and use it as a pass/fail exam that does not have a weighted score. While the CPAT is the likely choice because it is a national standard, there are other validated options that are less costly.
  • Provide more candidate convenience in the hiring process. Allow candidates to test and/or submit applications for a longer period of time, including having more testing times and locations. The more the better. Also, provide opportunities to submit applications electronically.
  • Recruitment will have a larger impact once barriers are reduced. A broad candidate pool can help increase both the quality and diversity of candidates. However, process barriers will work against the positive impact of a large candidate pool.

The City has already adopted some measures recommended by the study from youth recruitment (at the Public Safety Academy at PPS Westinghouse, and a youth camp for girls); a new written exam; and the ability to submit applications electronically.



A correction has been made. It was previously reported that there were three women in the Fire Bureau. It has been updated to the correct number of five women. 


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Molly Onufer
Communications Director
Mayor's Office