Only 1.3% of FDNY firefighters are Asian-American

FDNY is launching a new recruiting campaign that focuses on Asian Americans and other ethnic minorities.

ABC 7 reports that Commissioner Daniel Nigro unveiled a poster for the upcoming firefighters’ exam on Facebook featuring four active firefighters who are recruiters for the department.

FDNY is focused on reaching women and minorities such as Asian Americans who make up only 1.3% of the force.
Firefighter Chi Ho Li is Asian-American and that is a rarity in the FDNY. Li, who is assigned to Fire Engine 243 in Bath Beach, Brooklyn, is described by ABC as “one of New York’s Bravest”.

“It’s a great rush, yeah,” Li said before admitting that firefighting wasn’t his initial dream, “I thought I would do engineering.”

EMT Billy Chen who was born in Williamsburg was initially going to medical school or law school.

“When I first came into the department 11 years ago, there wasn’t anyone that looked like me,” said David Lin, FDNY recruiter who used to translate fire safety classes at a senior center in Bensonhurst.

“They’ll talk to their kids and their grandkids, and they’ll say, ‘Hey you know what I saw today? I had the fire department gave me fire safety education and they also spoke to me about these great careers,'” Lin said.

“In order to become an officer, a lieutenant, captain, battalion chief, you need college credits,” Lin added.

New York settled a $98 million lawsuit alleging the FDNY was discriminating against minority applicants three years ago but now the commissioner says things are different.

“Because we had such an interest and so many people wanted to become firefighters, we felt years ago there was no need to recruit. But there is, it’s powerful for us to reflect the people we serve,” said Daniel Nigro, FDNY Commissioner.

Li, Lin and Chen said it was difficult to win their parents over at first.  “She was pretty surprised,” Chen said. “What are you doing in the fire department?” Lin said. “$40,000 a year in school, yet you’re not going to use your degree and become a firefighter?” Li said.

However, their families were eventually won over and were proud of their offspring for “Being there for the people in this city,” Chen said.