Officials at Baltimore-Washington International Marshall Airport announced the hiring of its fire-and-rescue department’s first Hispanic fire chief Thursday, shortly after acknowledging that its first African American chief was terminated Wednesday.

The hiring of Victor N. Ferreira Jr., 52, a retired Prince George’s County fire official, comes amid complaints about diversity within the airport’s fire department following the hiring of an all-white class of firefighter recruits last month.

Ferreira said in a statement that one of his goals is “to ensure a diverse, inclusive workforce.”

“I intend to reach out to a number of organizations to follow up on initiatives that focus on boosting opportunities for minority firefighters,” he said.

Meanwhile, officials with the International Association of Black Professional Fire Fighters (IABPFF) and the NAACP questioned the airport’s termination of Gregory Lawrence, who was named acting chief in November, and criticized the selection of an all-white recruit class.

“This doesn’t smell good at all,” said James Hill, president of the IABPFF. “We have got to get to the bottom of this. Somebody needs to answer the question of why he was terminated.”

Others also expressed concerns.

Jonathan Dean, a spokesman for the Maryland Aviation Administration, confirmed that Lawrence was terminated but described the decision as a “personnel matter” that airport officials will not comment on.

Dean said the airport is committed to fair and equal hiring practices. Ferreira, born in Uruguay and fluent in English and Spanish, retired in 2009 as assistant chief of the Prince George’s County Fire and Emergency Medical Services Department after 27 years of service.

Dean said Ferreira was hired after a competitive nationwide search conducted with input from minority firefighters associations, including the IABPFF.

The class of recruits comprised nine white men, whom Dean called the most qualified candidates. With their hiring, the 89-person fire-and-rescue department became 26 percent minority and women and 13 percent African-American, Dean said.

Baltimore Sun