Firefighter hopefuls lined up to take the firefighters exam -- the written portion was administered Patriots Day weekend and the physical exam will finish up at the end of the summer. But some are upset about special treatment given to a certain group that some say shuts out another group of potential candidates.

Darrell Higginbottom has been a Boston Firefighter for eighteen years. He was promoted to captain in 2013, and he took the job because he loves helping people. 

Higginbottom is African American, and says being a firefighter has provided a good life for him and his family:

"When I first applied, the department was required to hire a certain amount of people of color -- blacks and Hispanics -- at a certain rate, I think its one to three or one to every five, so we were getting on at a pretty decent rate," says Higginbottom.

But Higginbottom says that's not the case now. He's Vice President of the Boston Society of Vulcans -- a chapter of the international non-profit created to help bring people of color into firefighting. He says over the past decade, the number of applicants of color on the job in Boston has declined.

"I get phone calls on a regular basis, they really want the job, they want the opportunity to serve the community...exam after exam and you don't get hired, so there's a lot of frustration," says Higginbottom.

Frustration, because a law that gives preference to disabled veterans, and other veterans, above everyone else. Capt. Higginbottom believes that's cutting down on candidates of color.

But it's the law. And it's nothing new.

"The statue dates back to 1884 to give preference to civil war veterans so obviously there's a long history in Massachusetts of providing veterans preference for those who served in the military," says State Representative Jerry Parisella, the House Chairman of the Committee on Veterans and Federal Affairs. "The policy behind the statue makes sense, I can understand the concern to have a diverse workforce but you have to remember less than 1 percent of the American public serves in the military."

"We're providing veterans a chance to serve their community again after serving their country, and I think especially police and firefighters who often face difficult circumstances, they've already been trained," says Parisella.

But the Boston Diversity Chief Danileson Taveres says they have to find a way to work within the law and bring more diversity. Because right now, about 73 percent of firefighters in the city are white -- and roughly 53 percent of residents are people of color.

"Part of it is the education piece part of it is the outreach reaching out to different veterans organizations, trying to cast a broader net on the applicant pool. And expand that pool of applicants," says Taveres.

He points to the success of what's called the Boston Police Cadet Program.

The program -- brought back this year by Police Commissioner Evans -- allows one-third of every police class to be made up of cadet program graduates. And Boston Police have been successful creating diversity is this way.

"It's a two-year program and after you're done with the two years you get a preference -- sort of like veterans preference. They're sort of set up differently than the fire department in that you can take a cadet from the Boston Police Department and potentially put them on desk duty or on doing details. But you really can't create that system within the Boston Fire Department," says Taveres.

Fire Captain Higginbotton disagrees:

"Why not offer these young people that opportunity, the same opportunity that's being offered by Boston Police? So you can't say it's not within the rules of the law because Boston Police are using it."

Whatever the solution is, Tavares says the city is determined to figure it out.

"We need more diversity in fire, we need more diversity in police. In sort of different departments, the school department it's not just a fire issue. We need more diversity across the board," says Tavares.

He's been on the job for just over a month, and plans to meet with the Boston Fire Commissioner in the next few weeks.