The International Association of Black Professional Fire Fighters (I.A.B.P.F.F.) was organized on October 3, 1970 in Hartford, Connecticut. The organization has over 5,000 members of fire personnel. It was designed to help recruit young black firefighters, build a connection with the community and improve fire prevention.
Through its existence, the group honors the firefighters who made it possible for blacks to wear the uniform. The rich history of black fire fighters in America dates as far back as 1817. The first on record were the slaves and freed slaves of the New Orleans fire department who were called to duty in the midst of a massive fire. Only a year later, Molly Williams became the first female fire fighter in New York.
They also celebrate the legacy of the early fire fighters in Charleston, South Carolina, who worked for no pay in 1818. The black men were segregated and treated unfairly by the white firemen on the job. Payment for the fire fighters was dependent upon first response, which was usually reserved for the white firefighters.
To keep the flame of black history among fire fighters burning, the I.A.B.P.F.F. keeps the memories alive at the Black Fire Fighters Museum in Los Angeles. At the museum the story of black firemen, like those of Engine 21 in Chicago, are immortalized. They were the first to build the slide pole for faster movement during an emergency. The first firehouse pole was built of wood before eventually being replaced with brass.
The International Association of Black Professional Fire Fighters is under President James Hill. He and the other members work hard to give distinction to the black fire fighters in America. The group has 90 chapters and represents over 5,000 fire service personnel and 200 lifetime members.
There are currently five African-American women who serve as department chiefs across the country; Rosemary Cloud (East Point, GA), Tony Colbert (Decatur, GA), Theresa Reed (Oakland, CA), Theresa Everett (Gary, IN), Deborah Pryor (Berkley, CA).
For more information on the International Association of Black Professional Fire Fighters, go to www.iabpf.org.