August 5, 2016
House Fire: Black New York Volunteer Firefighter Kenneth Walker Finds Home Aflame After Receiving Racist Note

A house fire in New York brought a volunteer firefighter to ruin on Wednesday as he worked. This came after Kenneth Walker received a note in his mailbox on Monday with a racist message.

Racism in the United States has been a problem since the nation was founded, starting with the subjugation of Native Americans. White men took their land as their own and founded one of the most controversially powerful nations in the world. This nation was built on the backs of black, Chinese, and other minority workers, and it wasn't until the past century or so that we finally started seeing progress toward equality.

Unfortunately for the first black volunteer firefighter in the New York town of North Tonawanda, the progress hasn't come far enough. Some people allegedly still have that racist ideal in the back of their minds and feel that others shouldn't have the same rights. A house fire that left Walker and his family homeless was evidence of this.

A neighbor was arrested in connection with the house fire that could have easily taken Walker's life had he not been working at the time. The note allegedly from that neighbor had a very disturbing message.

"N*** are not allowed to be firefighters. No one wants you in this city. You have until the end of the week to resign your position or you will regret it N***."

Firefighters literally put their lives on the line every day by walking into possible death traps in order to save the lives of people caught in what could be a fiery grave. Their bravery rivals that of police who follow a code and do their jobs correctly, even in the face of being shot to uphold the law.

The house fire that took Kenneth Walker's home indicates racism is alive and well today.

Walker apparently was more upset with his neighbor's intolerance, telling the local press, "It's sad that someone is so offended by [my] presence that they feel the need to burn my house down if that's what occurred."

The American Red Cross has stepped in to give the Walker family a place to stay while the investigation takes place to confirm where the note had come from. North Tonawanda police Captain Thomas Krantz said in a news conference that a neighbor has come forward admitting to the deed, 39-year-old Matthew Jurado, a man who had recently been let go by the Gratwick Hose Volunteer Fire Company. They are still looking for more concrete evidence in spite of the neighbor's confession to starting the house fire.

"FBI has received a copy of the note left at Mr. Walker's residence and we were notified of the fire that occurred there. Our office is conducting a review to determine what investigative steps are indicated under FBI policy with regard to federal jurisdiction in this matter."

North Tonawanda is a 97 percent white town outside Buffalo, and if racial dispute was the initial cause of the house fire, that leaves the mostly Polish-American population as possible suspects. Jurado may have simply been speaking for someone else, the FBI may suspect.

The internet's reaction to Kenneth Walker's tragedy shows that there is also a growing compassion among humans, as a GoFundMe account was set up to help him and his family. So far, the account has raised over $600 past its initial goal of $100,000. If you would like to contribute to helping the Walker family through this troubling time after the house fire, click here and give what you can.

[Image via John Hanley/]