The Fire Department has stopped requiring probationary firefighters to pass a job-related physical-skills test before getting hired — a move that critics derided as a lowering of standards.
The move by first-year Fire Commissioner Daniel Nigro, which allows probies to fail components of the Functional Skills Training test but still graduate from the Fire Academy, comes amid criticism of the department’s low hiring rate of women.
“It’s a lowering of the standards across the board,” said one former FDNY official familiar with training protocol.
“What needs to matter is how well you perform the tasks of firefighting,” he added. “The question is when you’re 270 pounds and you’re on the fourth floor and someone comes through that window — can they pick you up and drag you out or not?”
The FST drills include advancing a heavy tire 6 to 8 feet, raising a ladder up a wall and breaching holes in a ceiling — while wearing an oxygen tank with a limited amount of air.
Nigro revealed the adjustments to the exam at a City Council hearing Wednesday where members questioned whether the skills test was responsible for the 10,500-member force including just 44 women.
Department officials insisted the two issues were unrelated and that the changes hadn’t impacted anyone in the academy class that graduated last month. While 95 percent of men pass the FDNY’s demanding physical test, only 57 percent of women manage to get through.
After the hearing, Nigro said passing the skills tests had only been required of the two most recent classes — and not for any of the 15 years before.
“We still grade the people. You can still fail it if you go beyond the time, but you’re not automatically failed from the program,” he said.
Despite Nigro’s assurances, Fire and Criminal Justice Services Committee Chair Elizabeth Crowley (D-Queens) questioned the impact of inconsistencies in training in recent years.
“There are still concerns that excessive testing methods within the Fire Academy are being used to keep women probationary firefighters from graduating,” she said.
Source: NY Post