Tomorrow, 33-year-old Rebecca Wax will graduate from the New York City Fire Academy — the 18-week training course that all prospective members of the New York Fire Department must complete — and, soon afterward, she will be assigned to a firehouse and tasked with the full duties of a firefighter. Yet, some of New York’s Bravest have concerns about her fitness for the job.
Their hesitation has nothing to do Wax’s sex. In fact, she is one of three female graduates in the current class.
Rather the reservations about Wax is that she failed to pass the Functional Skills Training test, a grueling obstacle course of job-related tasks performed in full gear with a limited air supply.
An insider familiar with the training told the New York Post:
They’re going to allow the first person to graduate without passing because this administration has lowered the standard.
We’re being asked to go into a fire with someone who isn’t 100 percent qualified. Our job is a team effort. If there’s a weak link in the chain, either civilians or our members can die.
The FDNY, which turns 150 this year, is under pressure by Mayor Bill de Blasio to hire more women, which is all to the good … if the female “probies” (probationary firefighter) are up to snuff. The other two women who graduated alongside Wax are. According to the Post source:
They’re kicking butt. They’re doing better than 50 percent of the class. When they get assigned to a firehouse, they’ll be welcomed with open arms because they’ve done what everyone else has gone through.
But when it comes to Wax, even women in the department are unhappy. Some worry that they are getting “lumped into the same category of a female getting special treatment and not meeting the same standards as the males. It devalues what the women in the field have accomplished.”
The fitness test is not easy. It entails breathing through a mask attached to an air tank while carrying 50 pounds of gear, climbing six flights of stairs, stretching hose lines, dragging dummies through tunnels with no visibility, and more. The test must be completed, moreover, in under 17 minutes and 50 seconds.
Wax finished the test just once in numerous tries — and even then needed 22 minutes to do so. During an actual fire, the difference could spell death for fellow firefighters and rescue victims.
A group of FDNY women called the United Women Firefighters objects to the fitness test, contending that it unfairly singles out women. Experts contend that the test mirrors demands of the job.
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