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PLANO Firefighters epitomize the term, 'civil servants,' and it's no different at Plano Fire Station No. 1.

Chief Brian Crawford cannot say enough about how proud he is of his department, but he admits there is always room to grow and adapt.

As a part of Plano Fire-Rescue's strategic plan, the chief is embarking on a plan to diversify his staff.

'Out of the 250 applicants we had that took our last exam, about 79 percent were white or white male,' Crawford said.

He said that's a problem as Plano grows more and more diverse by the day.

Crawford's department is 94 percent white. Of the 333 sworn firefighter-EMTs, 313 are white, three percent are Hispanic/Latino, 1.5 percent are black, and even fewer are Asian.

'That does not reflect the community that we serve,' Crawford said.

The chief is now talking with minority groups to tell them about opportunities at the Plano Fire- Rescue. He says ultimately only the best candidates will get the job, but is encouraging diversity in the candidate pool.

Crawford hopes to fill close to 15 positions by October.

The latest 2010 census numbers show Plano with a white population of 66.9 percent and an Asian population of 16.9 percent.

Last week, the chief met with members at the Plano Multicultural Outreach Roundtable, and he will be doing another round of visits at schools, churches, temples, and mosques.

'All [parents] want their sons and daughters to be is doctors and engineers, and nobody thinks about the fire department or police department,' said Shaheen Salam, who is Pakistani and with the Roundtable. Salam is happy to hear the chief is reaching out in this way.

Crawford would also like to see more women candidates. Out of 333 sworn firefighter/EMTs, just six are women. Crawford said diversity will help with service, because he knows his men and women encounter people of all races at each call.

'And they go, 'Wow, I see someone who looks like me.' That's our best recruiting tool, and right now, that's a challenge for us,' Crawford said.

On Wednesday, Crawford and other members of the fire department are hosting a public seminar titled How to Become a Plano Firefighter. It is scheduled for 6:30 p.m. at the Florence Shapiro Council Chambers in the City of Plano Municipal Center at 1520 K Avenue.

E-mail jpanicker@wfaa.com

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