TROY, N.Y. (NEWS10) — The Troy Fire Department is thinking outside the box when it comes to enlisting new members. Four high school graduates are spending their summer training to become EMT’s in a new program to draw teens from the city into the field.
One of the teens could make history for the department.
“If I finish the fire academy before anyone else transfers, I’ll be the first African American female firefighter here,” said recruit Kelasia Harris.
Harris came to the department knowing she wanted to become a firefighter. A fire in an upstairs apartment sparked her interest and taught her something not easily learned, bravery.
“There are a lot of Black girls that think they can’t do it because they’re female or because they’re Black and you can really do anything you want,” Harris said.
“Right now, we are having a recruitment difficulty across the board,” said Fire Chief Eric McMahon.
McMahon is down 10 firefighters. He’s working with Rensselaer County’s Workforce Development Program and Hudson Valley Community College so the teens not only are trained but get paid and earn college credit.
“Selfishly, I hope some of these kids return to the City of Troy’s Fire Department and say, ‘Hey, I remember when I was given this break,” McMahon said.
While the program is open to all teens, the first year is focusing on recruiting minorities. It’s a population the chief said is not represented within the fire department.
In a couple of weeks, the teens will be taking New York State EMT exam. The chief is aiming to be a mentor to the recruits, possibly inspiring one of the teens to become the next fire chief.
“They’re all good kids. I hope that they go on from here and take the life lessons that they learned from here and just become whatever they would like to be in society,” McMahon said.