CLEVELAND, Ohio (WOIO) - For the first time in 200 years, the Canton Fire Department has its first African American chief.
The department’s new chief is Akbar Bennett.
“Being a fire chief, we’re in the life-saving business,” said Chief Bennett.
Bennett has been with the Canton Fire Department for 29 years.
The 50-year-old says it’s important for him to serve in this position, especially now, at a time when racial tension is so high across the country.
“I grew up in the projects of Canton, Ohio... we had no firefighters that would come by, so I’m going to change that,” said Bennett.
Bennett said he wants to make sure he has a diverse group of firefighters in his department.
“We got work to do, we are going to get more minorities on the fire department and we’re going to be more inclusive... reaching out to the community,” said Bennett.
Although the color of his skin sets him apart from past Canton fire chiefs, Chief Bennett says he worked just as hard as they did to get where he is now.
“I had to put in work... I would get up at 4′oclock in the morning and study from 4 o’clock in the morning to 10 o’clock at night,” he said.
Bennett said he may be the first Black fire chief, but he’s going to make sure he’s not the last.
“If I can be a symbol for the next young African American in the community to say you know what I can do that, I’m good with that,” said Bennett.