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Council members call for more women in FDNY

A woman bikes past a firetruck parked outside

A woman bikes past a firetruck parked outside New York City Engine 33, Ladder 9 on the Lower East Side. Photo Credit: Getty Images / Mario Tama

Advocates and city council members criticized the FDNY commissioner over the lack of women in the department during an hours-long city council hearing Wednesday.

A main concern was the seemingly prohibitive training process potential firefighters face in the FDNY's academy after they are already accepted and pass an initial physical test, said council member Elizabeth Crowley, chair of the Fire and Criminal Justice Committee & co-chair of the NYC Council Women's Caucus.

Only 4 women graduated in the academy's December 2013 class, half of the 8 who entered the training program, Crowley said. And there are currently only 44 women firefighters in the FDNY, less than 1% of the more than 10,000 total firefighters in the department, she said in a statement.

The Functional Skills Training exercises, in which probationary firefighters face a series of physical obstacles including pulling hoses and climbing ladders in full gear, were criticized by Crowley because she said they do not realistically reflect the job.

"Other departments have a physical test to get in and then they train," Crowley said. "The academy has become more focused than ever before as a testing academy rather than a training academy."

Sarinya Srisakul, president of the United Women Firefighters, agreed.

"They take many tasks that many people do in a fire and then put it all together in one obstacle course and they have to do it in a speed that we do not do in the field," Srisakul said. "The bottom line is that it is illegal and not job validated."

During his testimony Wednesday, FDNY Commissioner Daniel Nigro said potential firefighters no longer have to pass the FST in order to graduate, but rather the score is one factor in an overall grade.


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