Lancaster City Fire seeks to diversify department to better serve the city

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LANCASTER, Pa. — The chief of the Lancaster City Fire Department says his department needs to better represent the people it serves.

Chief Tim Gregg says his department must be as diverse as the people of Lancaster.

“I think the detriment to not representing your community would be when everyone’s from the same background, they may tend to think alike, kind of a group think situation,” said Chief Gregg.

Lancaster City has almost 60,000 residents according to Census.gov, and Chief Gregg wants his firefighters to be from every walk of life – whether it’s having more women in the department, more veterans, or more cultures represented.

“People are more apt to provide a higher level of service. They’re able to communicate with the public better. They have more respect for the public,” he said.

Chief Gregg says having a diverse department also benefits the community.

“It shows respect for the community when at least you can try to communicate in non-emergency situations in their own language,” explained Chief Gregg.

He says firefighters like William Wakefield are great assets in the field because he can relate to the growing Hispanic community.

“First of all, my mother is Latino. My father is white, and I was born in Puerto Rico,” said Wakefield.

Wakefield’s been with Lancaster City Fire for three years now. He joined after 9-11 because he wanted to help the community.

He says his Latino background helps relate the people he meets.

“I see them as I see myself,” said Wakefield.

Students in Lancaster City say they appreciate the fire department taking steps to better represent the community.

“I really appreciate this initiative. I think, you know, the firefighters are important in ensuring the safety of the community, and in that role, it’s important to show that everybody is important for that,” said Caroline Lawrence, a student at Franklin & Marshall.

The chief says to keep up with Lancaster City’s changing population, ‘it’ll be a generational effort.’