• October 1st, 2023
  • Sunday, 01:23:01 PM

Frank E. Quintana Pushed for Equality for Firefighters, Community

Photo: Courtesy Quintana Family Frank E. Quintana was a member of the Denver Fire Department serving as Assistant Chief, who tirelessly advocated for Denver’s Chicano and Black firefighters.

Colorado is honoring Retired Denver Fire Department Assistant Chief Frank E. Quintana, who passed away on March 15, 2018. His services are Friday, April 6.

Frank E. Quintana grew up in northwest Denver and graduated from Holy Family High School.  He married Mary Frances Bartle in 1951. Together they had a large family of 8 boys and 2 girls.  Two children preceded him in death, Jim and Therese Marie.  Also preceding him was Mary, his first wife and Eugenia, his second wife.

Frank joined the Denver Fire Department in March 1955 and rose to the rank of Assistant Chief until his retirement in 1985. Two of his sons, David and James, followed him in that career.

In the summer of 1972, Frank Quintana and Firefighter Bob Maes, tutored 25 Black and Hispanic young men to prepare for the upcoming Civil Service written exam.  To their surprise, all 25 failed the test. This lead to them securing the services of the Mexican American Legal Defense and Education Fund (MALDEF). The attorneys, Kenneth A. Padilla and Paul Baca helped move the filing of the “Hiring” case, BeDan v Bach, Civil Action C-4662, circa 1973. The lawsuit alleged that the written exam was discriminatory against Chicanos, Blacks and females and was not job related to the position of Firefighter. Three PhD level experts had a collective opinion that the written exam and other requirements employed by the Civil Service were discriminatory. The fail rate could not have happened “by chance”.

The result was the 1974 Consent Decree, DeBan v Bach.  This was the creation of two rank order eligibility lists of qualified applicants. After each written examination, one white applicant and one Chicano or Black applicant, alternating on a “one for one” basis, were hired. This practice would continue until there was a 20% representation on the Denver Fire Department, mirroring that of the City of Denver. The Consent Decree also eliminated one other requirement for Firefighter, as not being job related. This requirement would eliminate 50% of Chicano males – the use of the 5’7” height requirement.  (The Honorable Alfred A. Arraj, Chief United States Judge, decided that the class action suit would be on the behalf of Chicano and Black males only, He was of the legal opinion that Chicano and Black males could not adequately represent the interests of females.)  In 2001, a white DFD Captain, who opposed the removal of the height requirement told Paul Baca that he had changed his mind. The most courageous firefighter he ever supervised was a Chicano Firefighter. He said, “You can’t coach or teach courage.”  This “one to one” hiring practice continued until March 24, 1984, when the United States Court of Appeals determined that the 20% goal had been reached.

In 1978, as the Denver Fire Department became integrated, Frank Quintana foresaw that the recently hired Chicano and Black firefighters would be subject to day-to-day discrimination on the job after their hiring as well as considerable backlash by some White supervisors and firefighters. Therefore, with the assistance of Paul Baca, Captain Frank Quintana created the organization known as “Firefighters Incorporated for Racial Equality” (F.I.R.E.) to support them. Frank’s predictions turned out to be true. This resulted in a second case being filed in the United States District Court.  F.I.R.E won that case, only to have it reversed by the United States Court of Appeals…remanding it for a new trial. In 1986, the case was settled.  The resolution of this case resulted in the acceleration of the process of promoting qualified Chicano and Black firefighters.

During Frank’s tenure with the Denver Fire Department, he too battled discrimination and retaliatory practices from the Chief of the Department. Examples of discrimination and retaliation ranged from being denied promotions and several suspensions to accusations of inappropriate behavior, poor job performance and theft. Each and every instance, with the exception of one promotion, was contested and won by Quintana. In 1974, he was promoted to the rank of Assistant Chief.

In 1984, Frank Quintana filed a retaliation case against the Chief of the Denver Fire Department, the City and County of Denver and other White Assistant Chiefs in the United States District court.  In 1988, the Court found the Chief of the Denver Fire Department, 3 members of the Fire Department and the City had indeed unlawfully retaliated against Quintana over many years.

In 1985, Frank Quintana retired from the Denver Fire Department as Assistant Chief.  In 1972, when Frank Quintana and Bob Maes started recruiting Blacks and Hispanics, there were 860 Whites, 25 Hispanics and 6 Blacks on the Denver Fire Department.  In 1984, there were 704 Whites, 125 Hispanic, 43 Black, 4 Native Americans and 2 Asian firefighters. In 2018, there are 662 Whites, 160 Hispanics, 45 Blacks, 12 Native Americans, 13 Asians, 115 multi-ethnic/undetermined and approximately 40 female firefighters.

Throughout his career, Frank worked for other social programs such as Denver Fire Department Museum, Denver Community Development corporation, Northside Community Center, Servicios de la Raza, Highland Neighborhood Planning Committee and Jefferson Highland Sunnyside Neighborhood Association.  He continued to promote the education and training of firefighters thru his career.

Frank Quintana was also awarded the Jefferson Award for Public Service and the KUSA-TV Nine Who Care Award in 1980.

The family would like to thank Paul Baca for providing the above summary of events.

A Prayer Vigil will be held at Mt Olivet Chapel on April 6, 2018 at 1130 am followed by a graveside ceremony. There will be a reception, immediately following, at St Joan of Arc Catholic Church, 12735 W 58th Ave. Arvada, CO 80002.

Frank Quintana, age 86, was born March 1, 1932, in Denver Colorado. Frank passed away quietly in his sleep, with family members at his side, March 15, 2018. He was preceded in death by his sisters Ruth, and Margie; wives, Mary (Bartle) and Eugenia (Stewart); and children James Patrick and Theresa Marie. Frank is survived by his brother, Robert, and his children; Frank, Bruce, Tim, Dave, Bob, John, Mike and Linda; many grandchildren and great grandchildren.