DC Fire and EMS seeks diverse firefighter/EMT recruits

Originally from California, Nigel Naismith is going through training. He said his dad is from Costa Rica. Naismith has been working in 911 for four years, and recently moved to D.C. (WTOP/Kristi King)
Fire and EMS Lt. Roshawnda Mason, with DC Fire and EMS Recruitment Office. (WTOP/Kristi King)
“There’s nothing more rewarding than being able to help someone every day that you come to work,” D.C. Fire and EMS Chief John A. Donnelly Sr. said at an event Monday. “I’ve grown up in this department for the last 30 years, and I’ve loved every minute of it.” (WTOP/Kristi King)

D.C. is looking to hire firefighter/emergency medical technicians through an application process that’s open for the next 30 days.

“Quite frankly, there’s nothing more rewarding than being able to help someone every day that you come to work. I’ve grown up in this department for the last 30 years, and I’ve loved every minute of it,” D.C. Fire and EMS Chief John A. Donnelly Sr. said at a Monday briefing.

For the first time, entrance exams will be offered both virtually and in person at testing centers.

English is mandatory, but bilingual applicants are especially encouraged.

“It’s important because our community is multilingual,” Donnelly said.

“And just like any other group within the city — whether it’s Black, white, male, female — whether you’re from Northwest or from Southeast, whether you speak another language or you identify as LBGTQ+ or any of those groups, the more people that we have, the better off we are in terms of us being able to connect with the community, understand their needs, and for the community to be comfortable calling us,” he said.

Napoleon Epps, who is currently going through training, was born and raised in D.C. He has family and friends in the department and said pride and dedication made him want to apply.

“The tradition is what really drove me to want to apply and go hard for it,” Epps said.

Another trainee, Nigel Naismith, said his dad is from Costa Rica. He’s originally from California and has been working in 911 for four years, but he recently moved to D.C.

“As a paramedic, I want to continue serving my community,” Naismith said. “So that’s why I’ve decided to join the department — to continue serving the community where I’m at and to do the most that I can for people around me.”

Candidates are welcome from anywhere, but application and entrance exam fees are waived for D.C. residents.

“We want people from our community serving our communities, and there’s no better way to do it than hiring from home,” Donnelly said.

Applicants need to be a U.S. citizen, at least 19 years old, have a valid driver’s license and a high school diploma or General Equivalency Diploma (GED).

So what type of person would be a good fit?

Lt. Roshawnda Mason of the D.C. Fire and EMS recruitment office said she always refers to the department’s core values.

“The BASICS — which stands for bravery, accountability, safety, integrity, compassion and service. We are looking for applicants who possess all of those qualities,” Mason said. “We are looking for applicants who are highly motivated, trustworthy, eager to learn and are ready to service the residents and visitors of Washington, D.C.”

People who pass the exam will need to undergo and pass a physical ability test, a background screening, a health and drug screening and an interview before being selected as a recruit.

“There is opportunity for upward mobility, benefits and a great pension to say the least,” Mason said.

But Donnelly added that the stringent review process isn’t just about checking boxes.

“We’re looking for the right people; this is a hard job. And there’s a lot on the line for everybody when they go out the door,” Donnelly said.

“So, it’s very important for us to get the right people, and the right people all don’t fit in one mold. They come from a lot of places. They come from a lot of experiences, and we want anybody that’s interested to apply and see if you have what it takes.”

People selected for the job must be fully vaccinated against COVID-19, which includes all eligible booster shots, except when vaccination is not medically advised or violates sincerely held religious beliefs.

You can apply on the District’s website. The application process closes Aug. 30.

Kristi King

Kristi King is a veteran reporter who has been working in the WTOP newsroom since 1990. She covers everything from breaking news to consumer concerns and the latest medical developments.

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