Austin Fire Chief Joel Baker discusses continuing diversity goals at department

The City of Austin made history when it hired its first African American fire chief a little over a year ago.

Chief Joel Baker took over the department of about 1,100 firefighters after coming here from Atlanta.

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“I don't try to dwell on me being the first African American fire chief, because that's not important. What's important is that I'm not the last African American fire chief,” said Chief Baker. 

Chief Baker now oversees 49 fire stations and around 1,200 employees. He says his goals for the department have changed over time, but one has stuck through it all.

“One of my goals is really to increase the diversity at the Austin Fire Department. It needs to reflect more of the community we serve because I believe the youth of Austin and our youth in general, you will be what you see those young African American, young Latinos, people in the Asian community or LGBT community, if they see more firefighter that look like them, they will want to choose the Austin Fire Department as a career as well,” he said. 

Chief Baker says the fire department is still trying to meet this goal.

“Although we had an increase of Africans that had applied, I have not really seen an increase of Africans that have been hired so now we got to find out what's the barrier of getting them hired,” said Chief Baker.

Although he says its a work in progress, chief baker says he's proud of what he has accomplished with the department as a team and hopes his story can help inspire others.

“My goal is to let the community know if I can do it, they can do it,” said Chief Baker.