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FDNY Swears In Its Most Diverse Class Of Firefighters

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Mayor Michael Bloomberg attended this morning a swearing-in ceremony on Randall's Island of the most diverse class of probationary firefighters in FDNY history.

FDNY officials say of the 318 recruits sworn in today, two-thirds of them are African-American, Latino or Asian.

There are also eight women, representing the largest class of female firefighters since the 1980s.

More than half the current recruits worked as EMTs before being promoted to firefighters.

These latest recruits represent a long struggle from activists and politicians to increase diversity among firefighters.

"You are in short a true cross-section of this magnificent city," Bloomberg said. "In the nearly 12 years since we've been in office, the proportion of minority firefighters in the FDNY has nearly doubled. The number of female firefighters has also increased by a third. And I'm completely confident that in the years to come, building on the foundation that we have laid, this trend toward greater diversity in the ranks of New York's Bravest will continue."

Paul Washington, the former president of the Vulcan Society, a fraternal organization of black firefighters, said after the ceremony that this newest class is a step in the right direction, but there is still more work to be done to encourage diversity in the FDNY.

The Vulcan Society has fought legal battles against the city and the FDNY for years to increase diversity in the department.

"We've been fighting this battle now for about 150 years now, for the entire history of the New York City Fire Department. It's never been more than 7 or 8 percent people of color," Washington said. "They've never had a class anywhere near this diverse, and so it's been a long battle, and we're happy to see it's starting to bear some fruit."

The recruits immediately began their 18 weeks of intensive firefighter training at the FDNY Academy, as drill instructors began their orders as soon as the ceremony was through.

"The next 18 weeks will be the most difficult 18 weeks of your life. You're going to be pushed like never before," said Fire Commissioner Salvatore Cassano.

The FDNY did not swear in new recruits between 2008 to January 2013, as the case regarding the department's diversity efforts made its way through the courts.

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