Fighting the flames of racism

Bridging the Gap
Posted at 5:00 AM, Feb 03, 2017
and last updated 2017-02-03 17:37:56-05

The Baltimore City Fire Department began enlisting African-American firefighters in the 1950s and 1960s, though it wasn't until October of 1953 that paid black firefighters were hired. 

Historian, Guy Cephas remembers the early days of some of Baltimore's first black firefighters.

"My uncle 'Smoke-Stack-Hardy' and 14 other black men became the first auxiliary firefighters," he said. 

Despite being recognized as " real" firemen-- black firefighters were unable to flight flames in certain neighborhoods. In several instances, black firefighters were asked not to enter burning homes because of the color of their skin. 

Long time paramedic and firefighter, Bill Hennick worked for the Baltimore City Fire Department when integration began.

"I witnessed this when I came in in 1965. To have the treatment that was given in the fire department at that time was wrong and it should have been corrected long before that time," he said. 

Today, the Baltimore City Fire Department has become more diverse and has several high ranked African-Americans apart of their forever growing staff.

Bridging the Gap celebrates Black History Month by sharing the stories of Baltimore's African American history.

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