Officials: County program has increased Polk Fire Rescue diversity
The Proactive Diversity Recruitment and Training Program was designed to help bring economically disadvantaged and minorities into the fire services
Kathy Leigh Berkowitz
The Ledger, Lakeland, Fla.
BARTOW, Fla. — Thirty-six first-responders working at Polk County Fire Rescue have come through the Proactive Diversity Recruitment and Training Program designed to help bring economically disadvantaged and minorities into the fire services.
And this week, orientation was held for potential applicants for year 2019-20.
In 2005, the year the program began, Polk County employed 192 firefighters, of which only 4%, about seven full-time positions, were minorities. This included four Hispanic, two Asian and one African-American male, according to Polk Fire records.
Polk's Community Relations Advisory Council recommended to the board that they adopt a program to match Fire Rescue's diversity to that of the county.
"The Community Relations Advisory Council has been an integral partner in the success of the PDRTP," said Katrina Lunsford, chairwoman of the CRAC. "There are 36 first-responders employed today in Polk County Fire Rescue that are graduates and ambassadors for this program, which provide vital services to the residents of Polk County."
The nine-month program includes at least 24 weeks of emergency medical instruction, 485 hours of firefighter training and mentoring from former program graduates.
Students attend the same training and schooling as any other EMT, firefighter and paramedic students. Partnerships with Polk State College and Ridge Fire Academy provide the groundwork from which the recruits are trained.
This month, three EMT and two firefighter PDRTP recruits will graduate from Polk State College.
Today, Polk County Fire Rescue has 551 personnel, with about 21% (113) being African-American, Hispanic, Asian or Native American. Since 2007, the PDRTP program has hired and trained 68 employees, of which 53% remain employed by Polk County.
©2019 The Ledger (Lakeland, Fla.)