By ELIZABETH COLUCCIO
Three women joined the ranks of New York’s Bravest at the Fire Academy graduation on Tuesday, adding numbers to the still-small percentage of female firefighters in New York City.
Hildany Santana, Nia Terrelonge and Rebecca Wax were the only female graduates among 305 newly instated probationary firefighters. They bring the number of women in the FDNY up to 46, a record high from 41 women in 1981. However, there are some 10,300 uniformed personnel in the FDNY.
Mayor Bill de Blasio has pushed to make the department more inclusive for women, but critics question if women have the strength to meet the demands put on firefighters. This became the case with probationary firefighter Wax, who had been reported by the New York Post to have failed the physical portion of her training, which requires the trainee to perform in a simulation of a burning building. Fire Commissioner Daniel Nigro denied that Wax failed any portion of her training.
“Every one of the 305 people that graduated met the requirements to graduate,” he said.
Though their numbers aren’t very strong right now, women are still eager to join the field. Valerie Veluz, currently in EMS, hopes to become a firefighter in two years and enjoys the challenge of her profession.
“It’s tough,” Veluz said. “There’s only two girls in my firehouse, and we do as much as a guy can. It feels empowering.”
Fellow EMS personnel and firefighter hopeful Deanna Yearwood agreed that it’s time for women make up a bigger part of the FDNY.
“It’s a good field,” Yearwood said. “I think we need to step up to the plate, but I understand thoughts of intimidation.”