The FDNY is conducting a week-long program to bring would-be firefighters together with department veterans. It's also an effort by the fire department to diversity its ranks. NY1's Vivian Lee filed the following report.
The firefighters in uniform are FDNY veterans. Those gathered around them want to be like them, part of New York's Bravest.
"I've already been through the Marine corps, so now this is the next part of my dream," said Angel Vazquez, a FDNY candidate. "I'm hoping to gather some information off of these firemen and retirees."
This is the first week of the new firefighter candidate mentorship program, building relationships between those training and those who know the ropes, and a launchpad to attract more black, Hispanic and Asian recruits to a department that's 90 percent white.
The diversity effort follows the January swearing in of the department's first class of firefighters in nearly five years. That was after a federal judge deemed the FDNY's written exam racially discriminatory. It was scrapped for a new one.
Forty-two percent of the January class was made up of men and women of color.
"Now you can see the fruits of our labor," said Fire Commissioner Salvatore Cassano. "You're seeing a much more diversified class."
Not one of the candidates at the session has even started his or her 18-week training with the fire academy. Should they all decide to go on to that training, they can each count on their mentors they met at the session to be a guide throughout their careers.
Dellon Morgan recalled that he was mentally ready to save lives and risk his own 12 years ago when he signed up, but the physical training and endurance were grueling.
"We just try to introduce them and get 'em ready in each step so we don't lose anybody in that process, because some people, they may fall off for the wrong reasons when they could be very capable firefighters," Morgan said.
As the final mentorship sessions take place this week, numbers speak some volume. The number of candidates at the gathering who were black or Hispanic was equal to or greater than the number of their white colleagues.