Students learn about the history of black firefighters in the Bay Area

Dozens of elementary school students received a unique history lesson in Emeryville on Wednesday.

As part of Black History Month, firefighters from several agencies gave a presentation on the history of African-Americans in the fire service.

That history helped inspire Fire Captain Randall West of the Alameda County Fire Department.

"Here in the Bay Area, we have Chief Debbie Pryor, Berkeley's first female fire chief," he says. "And let's not forget Robert Demmonds, the first black fire chief of San Francisco."

Fire Capt. West and Anna Yates Elementary School teacher, Tiffany Johnson worked together to start this Black History Month event five years ago.

"Historically, African-Americans have been left out of the textbooks," said Johnson. "Now we have a push toward being inclusive and making sure everyone's history is being shared with our children."

The lesson includes some of the hardships faced by black firefighters right here in the Bay Area, like Engine 22, the only station black firefighters in Oakland were allowed to work. "In 1952 they started the process of trying to desegregate the firehouse," said Fire Capt. West.

Students also got to meet a part of history in person. Nadja Havenhill told us she is the first black female firefighter for the Alameda County Fire Department. "As long as I impacted one person," Havenhill told KTVU, "I did what I came out to do."

The lesson is one Ms. Johnson and the firefighters hope will make a lasting impression on young minds, "because one day," said Fire Capt. West, "they might want to be firefighters."