Women from across the city and Long Island on Sunday took the challenge and got their first taste of the physical endurance needed to become an FDNY firefighter and learn if they have the mental readiness for a job dominated by men.
Nearly 30 college students and young mothers with small children worked out for almost five hours in lower Manhattan at the New York Sports Club on Broadway, which donates the space so the women can train. There are currently 63 women firefighters in a department of 11,000.
The challenge began with an almost two-hour warmup of calisthenics, stretches and cardio exercises. The women then took on a two-hour stamina performance feat where they did pushups, dragged a 200-pound fire hose; a 165-pound mannequin and swung a sledgehammer against a mag wheel tire on a 5-foot stand while wearing 50-pound vests.
“It’s difficult but it feels kind of good. I feel powerful,’’ said Abi Akinrosoye, 19, of Brooklyn, who was coaxed to swing her sledgehammer harder. “I don’t want a typical desk job. I like teamwork and I want to have a morally satisfying job,’’ said Akinrosoye, an emergency management major at John Jay College.
“It’s a fire. You got to get inside. Harder, harder, harder,’’ said FDNY firefighter Sarinya Srisakul, 36, president of the United Women Firefighters Association. The group hosted the open house and trains women candidates for the physical abilities test.
After the workout Sunday, participants were able to sign up for the written exam. The signup deadline is Tuesday, Srisakul said.
Another open house will be scheduled if the fire department extends the deadline to May, she noted.
After signing up for the test, applicants will be invited to take it within the next few months. The exam, to be scheduled on various dates, will be offered in all five boroughs.
Those who score high are asked to take the physical test — an obstacle course with up to eight feats, from stair climbing — about 60 steps per minute — to equipment-carrying, a ladder raise and a mock rescue exercise.
On Sunday, Heather Quiroz, 25, of New Hyde Park and a Nassau County Community College student, was in her element. A yoga teacher majoring in nutrition, she said: “This has always been a passion. My stepfather was a volunteer firefighter in upstate New York.’’ A single mother, with two boys ages 7 and 5, she said trying out for the FDNY will inspire her sons to know “if mommy can do it, so can they.’’ The workout is “a physical challenge but you can adapt. It just takes time,’’ she said.
Stony Brook University student Rosalyn Bradshaw, 19, of Brooklyn, said signing up for the exam gives her another career option. “Going to college isn’t always a guarantee that your major will offer a good-paying job.’’
“We don’t have to worry about getting paid 77 cents to the dollar in this job because the job is 99.4 percent male,’’ said Srisakul, smiling. “This is a great job for women with families. It’s a good income, really good health benefits and the schedule is awesome.’’