Commissioner Sal Cassano Says Now Is The Time To Bring On The Capable

NEW YORK (CBSNewYork) — The head of the FDNY is touting the number of female applicants among the 60,000 who will take the entrance exam next week.

Right now, 3,481 women have registered to take the FDNY exam, a record number that Commissioner Sal Cassano attributes to strong recruiting efforts. There were only 1,400 female applicants in 2006.

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“I think it was just a matter of informing them of what it’s all about. That was the biggest obstacle, that they couldn’t overcome the physical aptitude and they can,” Cassano said at Ladder 5 in Greenwich Village on Friday.

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CBS 2’s Marcia Kramer tagged along Friday with one of the FDNY’s best and brightest, Firefighter Regina Wilson of Engine 219 in Park Slope.

“It’s something that I’ve always wanted to do,” said Wilson, who is one of just 24 women on the FDNY’s roster of 11,000.

Wilson said the job is difficult but rewarding.

“The hardest part I would think is seeing damages to people’s homes, sometimes dealing with death. Dealing with the families and dealing with death, those are some of the hardest parts, but also it’s being able to save people. It makes up for everything,” Wilson said.

Wilson showed Kramer around her firehouse, including seeing the heartbreaking memorial to some of the men she worked with who perished on 9/11. Wilson stressed that being a firefighter is something that women can do.

“The biggest thing is to break through and letting people know that this is a job, not a man’s job, that it is just a job,” Wilson said.

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Those sentiments were echoed by Commissioner Cassano, who has directed his department to actively recruit women.

“We actually showed the women firefighters than you can do the job. This is nothing new. If you really want this job and you work hard at it it’s a great place to earn a living, a great place to make great friends,” Cassano said.

The FDNY is currently 500 firefighters short.

“We’re gonna hire, once we can, with the list open, between 300 and 325. That’s the tops we can actually train at one time,” Cassano said.

He said he’s eager to fill in the ranks to reduce department overtime.

The good news about female applicants comes in the aftermath of the FDNY losing a discrimination lawsuit filed by minority applicants who claimed the test was biased.

“I’ve been in the department 42 years. I’ve never seen intentional discrimination. We’re going to appeal it and I certainly don’t agree with it,” said Cassano.

Defendants in the class action may be eligible for $128 million in restitution.

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