North Collier Fire hires new, diverse crew to better reflect its community

North Collier Fire & Rescue just hired a dozen new firefighters of varying backgrounds so it can better serve you. Some of them are bilingual and that can save precious time when seconds count.

There is no question it is a physically and emotionally damaging job, but Becker Escalante always knew he would one day be a firefighter.

“We would look at them as heroes,” Escalante said.

Escalante is now one of the heroes. We watched as he went through intense first training with the department. He said he wants kids to look at him and pursue their dream, knowing someone with their ethnicity has made it.

Escalante is one of a dozen new hires by the department. It is making a determined effort to bring in a mix of all races, genders and backgrounds.

Heather Mazurkiewicz, a new hire at the department, said everybody on the truck brings unique skills in high-pressure situations.

By recruiting a more diverse team, including females, African and Asian Americans, the department will respond to emergencies more efficiently. The department serves over 140,000 people. In season, the number can increase by 30%.

“It helps put people at ease,” Mazurkiewicz said, “when we show up at their house and they have somebody that is of the same gender, color, race, that they are.”

Among those talented new hires is Isac Gaitan, who is Hispanic and bilingual. He told WINK News he would be able to translate if needed.

The department believes having a well-rounded team on the fire truck and out in the community will create a new diverse cycle of first responders.

“One of the beautiful things about this profession,” Mazurkiewicz said, “is you have to meet these qualifications if you’re a male if you’re a female, whatever race or religion you are its all the same.”

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