Washington, DC New Brunswick Fire Department Capt. Jorge L. Arriaga and firefighter Nestor Valdez recently traveled to Washington, D.C. at the invitation of the National Association Of Hispanic Firefighters to attend the First Responders Diversity Research and Best Practices on Successful Models for Recruitment, Training and Retention on July 15.
Hosted by U.S. Secretary of Labor Tom Perez, the forum focused on ways to best attract and retain a diverse firefighter and paramedic workforce. The group of about 100 people included first responders, elected officials, psychologists and civil rights leaders discussing their experiences and successes in maintaining a diverse and effective staff within their respective EMS and fire departments.
Fueled by these examples out of departments around the U.S., organizers intend to craft a report that departments nationwide can use as a guide in attracting more female and minority first responders.
Arriaga, a 22.5-year veteran of the New Brunswick Fire Department and President of the Professional Latino Firefighters of Central New Jersey was asked by about his journey to the rank of Captain.
“I don’t think I did anything different from anyone else,” he said.
He studied, worked hard and found a mentor in retired NBFD Deputy Chief Nick Grischuk and “held onto him,” Arriaga said.
Arriaga chose to bring Valdez, a New Brunswick firefighter for approximately nine months, to also take part in the conversation.
“They asked me to bring a younger firefighter,” Arriaga said. “It would be nice to have someone who can can continue where I left off (after retirement).”
The group’s recommendations will be put into a report that will be released in June of next year. It will then be sent out nationwide for departments to use as a resource while hiring.
“I’m glad I took part in it (and) felt very honored that they chose me,” Arriaga said.