PITTSBURGH (KDKA) – The City of Pittsburgh says it’s working to reduce barriers keeping women and minorities from applying to be firefighters.

“There are still people today that don’t know that females can be firefighters,” said Pittsburgh Bureau of Fire Lt. Kari Burnham.

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She recently climbed the ranks to lieutenant in the bureau. It’s a bureau that currently only has five women out of 474 firefighters. That’s why the city is working to break the barriers to help recruit more women and minorities to join the department.

(Photo: KDKA)

“To apply to be a firefighter, you have to live in the city. We want to be able to expand that scope so that people can apply from outside the city and once they get the position, go through the training and move into the city,” said Mayor Bill Peduto.

Peduto said this is part of a yearlong study and the goal is to have Public Safety employees better represent the community in terms of gender and diversity.

“Every call we go on, you are going to see males, females, kids, and especially kids, they are always, ‘look there’s a woman’ and little girls love to see it,” Burnham said.

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Burnham said it takes grit to do this job, but even more so, you must have heart — whether you are a man or a woman.

“I would love to encourage other people to be like that. Not just minorities, females, but anyone who does this job, to share the passion with them and make everything better,” said Burnham.

Some other changes include a pass or fail physical exam rather than each candidate being scored on what he or she can do. Plus, a new modern written exam that is already in place.

“All of our Public Safety bureaus strive to reflect the make up of the communities they serve,” Public Safety Director Wendell Hissrich said in a press release.

“In Pittsburgh, the population consists of 52% women and 28% minorities, yet the number of applications to the Pittsburgh Bureau of Fire does not currently mirror those numbers. The City is committed to attracting a more diverse workforce to choose a rewarding career with the Pittsburgh Bureau of Fire. This way we will better understand and communicate with our neighbors, keeping us all safe.”

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The city says it’s already implemented some recommendations, like youth recruitment, a new written exam and the ability to submit applications electronically.