2012-10-12 / Top Stories

FF Union Bristles Over Lack Of Physical Test

By Howard Schwach


UFA President Steve Cassidy UFA President Steve Cassidy For the first time in nearly half a century, there is no competitive physical test to qualify as a New York City firefighter, and that has many firefighters and their union fuming about the recent rulings of Federal Judge Nicholas Garaufis.

“For anyone whose life is in the balance [because of a fire in their home], only one thing matters,” says firefighter union president Steve Cassidy. “The only thing that matters is getting out alive and then even the Garaufis’ of the world want only the best [firefighters.]”

“Fighting fires in New York City is extremely physically challenging,” Cassidy adds. “Firefighters wear bunker gear and carry tools that weigh up to 130 pounds. Imagine racing up 10 flights of stairs just to reach the fire and then having to go to work. Firefighting is about saving lives. Everybody knows that seconds count, especially when a life is hanging in the balance.”


Judge Nicholas Garaufis Judge Nicholas Garaufis While there is a test of “minimum physical ability,” Cassidy says, it does not really measure up to what firefighters will find on the job.

“So, the city is moving ahead to hire off the results of the latest firefighter exam after Garaufis had decided that the test was watered down enough to meet his demands to emphasize diversity over the ability to do the job,” Cassidy said. “The minimums will not help firefighters meet the job’s serious physical demands.

Those who agree with Garaufis, however, think that the last test and its minimum physical requirements are just what the city needs for its fire department.

In an editorial this week, the New York Times said, “Judge Nicholas Garaufis supplied much-needed shock treatment two years ago when he barred New York City from hiring firefighters based on a test that discriminated against black and Hispanic candidates. [The most recent test] is a well designed nondiscriminatory screening test that will likely greatly increase the number of minority firefighters who are eligible to be hired without weakening the department’s exacting standards.”

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