The Omaha Fire Department was desegregated in 1957. During that year, black firefighters from the only remaining black station, Engine Station 14, were moved to other fire stations across the city, while white firefighters who had volunteered moved into Station 14. When desegregation happened, though, a number of white firefighters still did not accept black firefighters as equals. Black firefighters were often not allowed to eat with white firefighters, sleep in the same beds, or do fire inspections on white property. These things slowly changed over time.
In 1987, the Omaha Fire Department hired the first class of female firefighters, including the first black female firefighter Linda Brown. One big challenge that female firefighters faced was that there were not women’s locker rooms or rest rooms at the stations. The men and women had to share restrooms for a number of years, which caused some controversy. Also, many male firefighters thought that women were too weak to take on the job and often did not take their female peers seriously.
Today, the number of African American firefighters in Omaha remains small, but the tradition of black firefighters is proud.