The D.C. Office of Human Rights has found evidence that the D.C. Fire Department is systematically discriminating against blacks in hiring, promotions and assignments, according to a preliminary ruling issued this week.

Human Rights Director Anita Belamy Shelton issued the findings in response to a wide-ranging complaint filed in several separate cases by the Progressive Firefighters Association, a group of black firemen.

Among the findings, Shelton said, was evidence of discrimination in a fire department entrance examination given in November on which a disproportionate number of whites scored in the top 100 finishers.

Shelton directed the city's personnel office to develop a plan to bring the city's fire department application test into compliance with federal antidiscrimination guidelines, according to assistant personnel director Robert Storey.

Some 948 applicants to the fire department passed the examination given last November, and 76 percent of those who passed were black. However, initial results showed that 72 of the top 100 scores on the test were white.

D.C. Personnel Director Jose Gutierrez immediately stopped the hiring process and ordered the review of the procedure, saying then, "I am not going to sit here and allow an instrument that discriminates against minorities to be utilized."

Before Gutierrez stopped the hiring process, however, a low-level clerk had already offered jobs to 22 white firefighters. The city at first tried to revoke those job offers, but after a mild public outcry and the intervention of Rep. Stanford Parris (R-Va.) the white firefighters were hired.