MILWAUKEE - The Milwaukee Fire Department has opened the door for more people to become firefighters. Milwaukee Fire Chief Aaron Lipski said the change is a long time coming.
The Milwaukee Fire Department can now hire anyone who is legally hirable, whether they’re a United States citizen or not.
Chief Lipski said the department can benefit from more diversity, people who are multilingual and anyone who wants to serve their community.
"The word opportunity comes to mind for a lot of people," said Lipski. "Let’s make sure everybody’s welcome at the table."
In the land of opportunity, Chief Lipski wants to invite more people in.
"If someone is otherwise legally hirable, whether or not they are a U.S. citizen, that’s fine with us," said Lipski.
As part of a usual review, Lipski said the department found the only thing holding them back from hiring legally employable people who aren’t U.S. citizens was a Fire and Police Commission rule.
"There’s a real need to have firefighters, and we’re trying to be proactive as a Fire and Police Commission, doing everything we can to make sure that good people who love our city and are dedicated are eligible to be firefighters," said Ed Fallone, FPC chair.
In July, the FPC voted to get rid of the citizenship requirement for the fire department.
"We have many residents who are permanent resident aliens or Dreamers, DACA recipients who are legally entitled to work in the U.S.," said Fallone. "They have long-term ties in the city, and if you’re watching and you want to give back to your community contact the MFD, we’d love to have you."
"It’s being of the community and for the community," said Lipski.
Lipski said it’s not just opportunity for people to serve but for the people they serve.
"As we diversify, it absolutely allows us to generate a familiarity into different communities that will take the trust we have here and make it even bigger," said Lipski. "It will allow that trust into even more places."
For those interested, Lipski said he’s keeping the door open.
"Come on over," said Lipski. "Come on in. Welcome."
Anyone interested in becoming a firefighter can get ahold of the FPC to stay on top of upcoming recruitment opportunities.
This gets more complicated when it comes to the Milwaukee Police Department. There’s a state law requiring police officers to be U.S. citizens.