Tara Walker, 31, a high school girls basketball legend who scored 2,376 points in her Marist High School career, is now one of six women in the Jersey City Fire Department, and the first black female firefighter in the department’s 143-year history.
The diverse class includes two black men, four Hispanic men and an Asian man, city officials pointed out on Monday.
“Now today is really a great day because if you look at the 26 men and women sitting to my right, to your left, it really represents everything that is great about Jersey City,” Jersey City Mayor Steve Fulop said at the ceremony. “It is a diverse class, it is a young class, it is a motivated class, it is a class of people that have dedicated and lived their lives here in Jersey City.”
The new class brings the number of Jersey City firefighters to 557. City officials said that 47 members have been hired since Fulop took office.
“Waited for it since I was a kid,” said Anthony Silleto, 26, after he was sworn in. “It’s great.”
Kevin Ramirez, 28, said he’s excited to become a part of the department and serve Jersey City.
“It’s a wonderful feeling, a great feeling,” he said. “We’ve lived our whole lives here. I’m happy, I’m excited to become a part of it and meet the rest of the family.”
The hiring of the firefighters was made possible by funds from a $6.9 million federal Staffing for Adequate Fire and Emergency Response (SAFER) grant. The grant is expected to fund up to 49 new firefighters in total.
The 26 firefighters trained for eight weeks at the Morris County Public Safety Training Academy.