Firefighters say Dem-sponsored bill will put the public at risk
Connecticut Democrats are working to lower the physical fitness requirements for female firefighters, saying that less onerous standards will make fire departments “more diverse.”
A law introduced earlier this month in the Connecticut State Assembly would let women skip the Candidate Physical Ability Test, a timed gauntlet used by fire departments across the country. The test, which only 10 to 15 percent of women pass, requires candidates to complete intense physical tasks while wearing a 50 pound vest. It’s designed to simulate the experience of navigating a fire in heavy gear—and to weed out those unable to do so.
The law, introduced by five Democratic lawmakers, would offer women an alternative test based on “revised physical standards,” with the goal of ensuring that “additional female candidates” qualify for firefighter positions, text from the bill states.
But some firefighters, including women, who have climbed the ranks of their departments without workarounds, say the bill will set merit-based hiring ablaze and potentially endanger Connecticut residents. “If you can’t handle a 50 pound vest, you’re not going to be able to rescue a child from a burning building,” said Leah DiNapoli, a retired firefighter in New Haven, Conn.
“A citizen in need of rescue doesn’t care if a firefighter is white, black, Hispanic, male, or female,” said Frank Ricci, a retired firefighter who served as the president of the New Haven firefighters union. “They care that they can do the job. This attempt to socially engineer public safety positions will only serve to endanger the public.”
Unlike in the military, where uniforms and equipment vary by gender, all firefighters wear the same gear, which weighs at least 59 pounds—9 more than the vest used for the physical assessment. That’s not including the weight of ladders, hoses, or other firemen, who must sometimes carry incapacitated colleagues on their shoulders. While a few pieces of protective gear now come tailored for women, most of the essential tools do not.
Read More: ‘Absolutely Insane’: Connecticut Law Would Axe Fitness Requirements for Female Firefighters