Lt. Kevin McDonald helps student try on his helmet
A Stephens Elementary student tries on Lt. McDonald's helmet

“Seeing a firefighter that looked like me was like seeing a unicorn,” Will Boone, firefighter at Station 6 and Vice Chairman of Sable Flames, Inc., recounts as he talks to a gym full of the future.

This past Monday, Boone organized a fun event spotlighting Black and Brown officials in the Madison Fire and Police Departments on behalf of Sables Flames, Inc. The Madison Police Department’s Black Officer Coalition also joined the event.

With the help of Glenn Stephens Elementary School Principal Sarah Galanter-Guziewski and Parent Liaison Lindsey Johnson, they were able to showcase Black men and women as role models in a different setting other than well-known industries like sports and music. By exposing young children of color to firefighters and police officers that look like them, the team hopes to illuminate a career path that didn’t seem possible for them before.

Glenn Stephens Elementary holds various grade levels, the youngest in 4K and the oldest in 5th Grade, with each having its own recess time. With each recess, different age groups were able to meet the firefighters and police officers.

Students touch firefighter/paramedic Tasha Kirch's gear

In the school’s playground, a sense of unity and joy was fostered as the kids got to know and play with the officers and firefighters. Firefighters showed kids their gear, demonstrating how heavy it is by letting kids put on their helmets and air masks. They handed out plastic toy firefighter helmets for the children to wear as they played. There was also a fire truck, an ambulance, and a few police cars for the children to hop into and fiddle with the gadgets (their favorite being the horn and sirens, of course). With big smiles on everyone’s faces, both officials and kids equally alike enjoyed the experience.

Meanwhile, in the school’s gymnasium, multiple Q & A sessions were held. The kids raised their hands and asked any questions they had. Some questions were general and discussed the overall duties of the firefighting and policing professions, like how long their shifts were. Other questions were more specific and personal, like what their favorite part of the job was.

firefighters and police officers answer students' questionsThis event is only one of the many community initiatives that Sable Flames, Inc. takes part in. Sable Flames, Inc. is a non-profit organization made up of African American full-time firefighters located in Dane County. Their mission is to increase and cultivate Black firefighters in the area, as they find it crucial for African Americans and other persons of color to be employed in the field.

Surely in the future, seeing more people of color in the fire department will be less of a myth and more of a reality.

Sable Flames and Black Officer Coalition members pose for a picture

AASPIRE intern Tara Sherchok authored this post.

This content is free for use with credit to the City of Madison - Fire and a link back to the original post.