top of page

Herstory: Women in Firefighting

  • The June 2014 graduating class marked the first time the FDNY had 41 women firefighters since 1982.  

  • Today, there are currently at 72 women firefighters, which is a historic high, and we are expecting more members with future graduating classes.


First Woman Firefighter

The first woman firefighter ever in the United States was in 1818 in NYC at Oceanus Engine #11. She was a slave by the name of Molly Williams and worked side by side the other firefighters in the company. Her service was best known during a big blizzard that year when there was a shortage of male firefighters due to an influenza outbreak. 


First Women in the FDNY

The first group of women hired as part of the FDNY, including Brenda Berkman, who is often credited as the first female firefighter because she led the charge to allow women to become firefighters in the FDNY. This first group of women were a diverse group comprised of women of different backgrounds and experiences.



Cecelia Cox was the first woman to be  assigned to a ladder company – Ladder 9 in the East Village. She later became the first woman ladder company chauffer.



In 1986, Ella McNair became the first woman chauffeur. In 2001, McNair became the first African American woman promoted to Lieutenant. 



Joann Jacobs and Margaret Moffatt were the first women to become Fire Marshals. FM Moffatt later became the woman who has worked the longest in the FDNY. She retired in 2013 as Supervising Fire Marshal after 31 years of service.


Moving Up the Ranks

Rochelle Jones became the first woman to get promoted to Lieutenant. In 1999, she was promoted to become the first woman captain. In 2003, Rochelle Jones was promoted to Battalion Chief, which is the highest rank a woman has yet to achieve in the FDNY. She worked in Batallion 33. In 2005, Daiana Mielnik was assigned to this firehouse to work in Engine 276. Later on, Eileen Gregan was assigned as a battalion firefighter to the same firehouse.




In 2000, Aisha Ricca and Tracey Lewis were the first women to get promoted to firefighter from EMS. In 2008, FF Ricca was promoted to Fire Marshal. In 2014, FF Lewis was promoted to Lieutenant.


Special Operations

Adrienne Walsh was the first woman to be assigned to a rescue company and SCUBA team member. She later became an instructor. Today, she is a Lieutenant assigned to Squad 18 in the Special Operation Command in Greenwich Village.


Special Operations

Celia Thompson is the first woman to work in a Squad company in S-270.


Moving Forward

Daiana Mielnik became a firefighter, joining her sister Kinga Kusek, who became a firefighter in 2003. They become FDNY's first working firefighter sisters and are first generation Polish-Americans. Firefighters Mielnik and Kusek both work in Brooklyn.

Please reload


Moving Forward

Sarinya Srisakul became the first and only Asian female firefighter in FDNY. She works at Engine 5 in the East Village, and is the current President of the United Women Firefighters.


Moving Forward

Joy Flores, Sophy Medina, Sarina Olmo and Jennifer Quiñones were the first all Latina graduating class. Joy Flores is the first woman to graduate as a squad leader. FF Flores and FF Medina are the first women who applied and graduated from the FDNY Training Academy as military veterans.


Moving Forward

Georgia Brooke Guinan became the first trans-woman firefighter in FDNY. She currently works in Astoria, Queens and is the LGBT Events Coordinator for the Office of Recruitment and Diversity in the FDNY.


Increasing Numbers

The graduating class of June 2014 marked the first time the FDNY has had 41 women firefighters since 1982. June 2015 pushed the numbers to a new high of 44.  Today, we are currently at 52 women firefighters and expecting more with the next graduating class.  The UWF training program helps to achieve the goals of increasing the number of women firefighters. 


Women Firefighters and Advocacy

Firefighter Regina Wilson made history by becoming the Vulcan Society’s first woman President. Prior to that, Wilson was the UWF President from 2009-2012. She is also the first and only woman who is an FDNY singer and member of the Ceremonial Unit.


Women firefighters are active in the FDNY’s other groups, as well as groups outside the department. UWF members are also very active in the advocacy and sisterhood of women firefighters and gender equality.

Women Firefighters in the Military

  • Women in the military have great success within the FDNY. Military vets get 5 extra points on the entrance exam, with active duty service. Military vets can also subtract one year off their age for every year of active duty service.

  • Once vets become firefighters, they can use their military status as extra points on a promotional exam.

  • Many women firefighters are vets. There are also many women who are in the reserves and are able to balance both careers while being in the fire service. 

Women Firefighters and Family

The FDNY is a great career for mothers because of the flexible scheduling and the great benefits. About one-third of the women firefighters currently in the FDNY have children or are expecting! 


Women firefighters are an extremely diverse group of people.  We represent many racial groups and ethnicities, speak many languages, have many LGBT members and we represent every borough in New York City.

UWF Training Program

The United Women Firefighters (UWF) have been conducting training programs for women candidates for decades. It is a great way to get physically fit for CPAT and fire academy as well as an excellent way to meet other women candidates and women firefighters who can give you invaluable advice along the way. 

UWF Sisterhood

The United Women Firefighters is a sisterhood like no other. You will be considered a part of our family when you join our group. There are few women firefighters in the FDNY but our numbers are steadily increasing. We want to see more and more successful and happy women firefighters amongst our ranks.

Please reload

bottom of page