Back in 1999 when New York City Fire Department firefighter Regina Wilson graduated from the Fire Academy…and she was the only woman in a class of 320 grads. She was also the 12th African-American woman to join the FDNY ever. Fast forward more than 20 years later – and 16 women graduated from the Fire Academy this week. And now? For the first time ever, there are more than 100 female firefighters in the department.
This is a major milestone for getting more women into this male-dominated profession and it’s something Wilson says she never thought she’d see while she was still on the job. FDNY Fire Academy graduates had to pass both a physical and fitness test before starting an 18-week classroom and physical fire service training program. Along with successfully finishing the course, they had to learn how to extinguish fires and save lives, plus these women also had to learn to deal with sexism from mentors like Wilson from United Women Firefighters Association.
“It’s empowering to see and be surrounded by so many females with the same goals as me,” says FDNY probationary firefighter Kristen DeRop, one of the 16 women who just graduated. “I’m really happy that there are so many powerful, strong women on the job.”