Pueblo Fire Has A Big Diversity Problem. A Retired African-American Firefighter Is Helping Fix It

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Group of Firefighters Standing
In this 2012 photo, firefighters form a fire line at the Waldo Canyon Fire in Colorado Springs.

The Pueblo Fire Department has a problem many departments have—its firefighters don't reflect the community they serve. About half of Pueblo's population is Hispanic, but that's not true for the city's firefighters. And the department has also never employed a black firefighter, Fire Chief Shawn Shelton said.

To help increase diversity in his firehouses, Shelton has enlisted a retired African-American federal firefighter who worked in Pueblo in the 1970s. Eugene Polk is helping connect the Pueblo department to the city's African-American community, whether it's by attending Juneteenth events or removing barriers in the application process.

Polk talked to Colorado Matters about the department's diversity strategy, and why even decades later he still receives calls from young people of color wanting to be firefighters.