November 6, 2015
By Joe Maniscalco
New York, NY – There are now more women in the FDNY than at any time in the department’s history — and it took the recent graduation of four female probationary firefighters out of a class of 295 to get there.
The graduation of four female probationary firefighters at ceremonies held at Queens College on Friday morning, brings the total number of women firefighters in NYC to 49. That’s just eight more than the original crop of female firefighters who first blazed a trail for women in the FDNY back in 1982.
“This outstanding class of probationary firefighters is a true representation of our diverse city and every community our members protect,” FDNY Commissioner Daniel Nigro said in a statement.
While encouraging, the graduation of the four female probationary firefighters still leaves New York City woefully behind other major American cities. Women make up 15 percent of San Francisco’s fire department. They are 12 percent of Minneapolis’ fire department. Nationally, women comprise about 3.8 percent of all U.S firefighters.
The FDNY continues to struggle with policies that will ultimately lead to many more women firefighters joining the ranks.
A group called the United Women Firefighters and its president Sarinya Srisakul, however, is fighting hard to help make that happen. Together with the New York Sports Club, Fire Foundation and the New York Women’s Foundation, the United Women Firefighters heads a free training program that helps women candidates get ready for their physical test, as well as the much more rigorous fire academy.
Full firefighting gear can weigh anywhere from 60 to 125 pounds. Probationary firefighters — male or female — are required to maneuver their equipment up and down ladders and staircases in the harshest situations.
The United Women Firefighters training program uses a specially designed gym setting to simulate those conditions.
Since 2013, 23 women have been hired, or about one percent of the group of hirees, and about one percent of the women who applied for the exam.
The group of new female firefighters includes a mother of two daughters, a U.S. Marine, a former electrician, and the first ever woman to have two brothers who also serve as firefighters.