Fire drills: Female firefighters train next generation of Bravest in Bushwick

Fire drills: Female firefighters train next generation of Bravest in Bushwick
Girl power!: Firefighters mentored and helped prepare young men and women looking to join New York’s Bravest in Bushwick on March 11.
Photo by Stefano Giovannini

They’re breaking down doors — and glass ceilings!

Some of the Fire Department’s few female firefighters put hundreds of wannabes through their paces in Bushwick on March 11, showing young men and especially women just how tough it is to bust into buildings and haul people out — but also that they can do it.

“I was teaching young women it’s doable for them, even if it’s non-traditional,” said Jackie-Michelle Martinez, who has been putting out fires for 11 years and is the department’s first-ever women’s outreach coordinator. “Women can do anything, they are still feminine and strong.”

The attendees at the Ridgewood Bushwick Youth Center event learned some of the important skills needed to become one of New York’s Bravest — practising donning on all of the hefty equipment properly, dragging a heavy dummy out of a building, breaking down a door, and hauling a big firehose, said Martinez.

Women are few and far between in the blaze-busting force, with just 58 to 10,918 men — one the lowest per capita of any major city in the country. But the first step to recruiting more women is showing them that they are capable of passing the department’s notoriously tough training academy, said another female firefighter.

“For any woman who wasn’t really sure what the job entails, this training kind of gives them a little glimpse of what the academy is about and what training is like,” said Sarina Olmo, who has been active for about eight years. “They are intimidated, but once they see that this is something that is really attainable for them, we will get our numbers up.”

And potential recruits say they appreciated the opportunity — the exercise was exhausting, but worth it to learn just what it takes to earn the coveted uniform, said one.

“It was fun, it was a wake-up call and let me know this is a real opportunity,” said 26-year-old Sylvester Consepcion. “Firefighters are heroes and I’d like to be a part of the legacy.”

Reach reporter Julianne Cuba at (718) 260–4577 or by e-mail at jcuba@cnglocal.com. Follow her on Twitter @julcuba.

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