Baltimore City Fire Department advances diversity with increased representation of Black female firefighters

March 8, 2024

Current state of diversity in firefighting

According to the National Fire Protection Association, African-Americans represent approximately 8 percent of career firefighters nationwide.

Within this demographic, women of color occupy a smaller fraction.

The Baltimore City Fire Department stands as a notable example of this trend, with Black female firefighters constituting about 7 percent of its uniformed personnel.

The department also has two Black women in the role of fire captains, with a third soon to join their ranks.

Personal experiences and challenges

Captain Shanntel Wilkins, promoted to fire suppression captain in September 2023, is one of the two Black female fire captains in the department.

Reflecting on her journey, Wilkins said: “I did not think about a woman being a firefighter. I never saw any.”

Her motivation stemmed from wanting to be a role model for her daughter.

However, Wilkins faced skepticism and subtle comments during her training, which she used as motivation.

Similarly, Tiffany Randolph, an EMT and firefighter, transitioned from social work to firefighting seven years ago.

Randolph observed: “To come into a white male-dominated career is a second task. It’s just task full, but not impossible.”

The importance of representation and future goals

The importance of representation in the fire service is emphasized by Randolph and Wilkins.

They argue that the cultural and perspective diversity they bring is crucial for serving the predominantly African American population of Baltimore City, which stands at about 63 percent.

Randolph highlighted the unique leadership qualities women bring to the field, stating: “We are not impulsive typically like that.

We like to think first, especially since it’s such a dangerous job.” Both women are committed to expanding their ‘sisterhood’ within the department and actively recruit new members.

The Baltimore City Fire Department is supporting these efforts by offering training programs to high school students and youth summer camps, like Camp Spark, specifically designed for girls.

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