NYC: “Meet the seemingly unfirable female firefighter”

“Despite failing a required FDNY running test five times, Wendy Tapia was allowed to graduate from the Fire Academy and become a firefighter. On Dec. 2, she is taking the test for an unprecedented sixth time.” [New York Post] In The Excuse Factory, I told the story of how prolonged litigation from civil rights groups claiming to speak for the interests of female applicants had severely eroded testing for strength, endurance and agility among many urban fire, police and trash services.


  • equal means equal, not spec ial excuses, almost or extra equal. all need to meet the same standards. if you can’t meet them too bad it’s not the job for you.

  • And if, heaven forbid, she is killed or injured because she is physically not up to the mark, the lawyers will be out in battalions. More likely, some other poor mope will be injured, and we’ll not see it.

  • Obsessive concern for diversity results in lower standards, less quality, and resentmnent among co-workers? Color me shocked. I just can’t believe there would be unintended consequences of this sort.

    This is also (yet) another window into our sordid entitlement culture. Ms. Tapia knows she failed the test (to run 1.5 miles in 12 minutes), yet she showed up for graduation anyway and accepted a job she can’t perform. She is proudly accepting what amounts to professional welfare. In the end, why bother to strive for actual achievement when the prize will be handed to you regardless?

  • Common, Common, Common….tsk, tsk…..don’t you know that equality of standards amongst candidates for firefighter jobs are not equal? Only equality of outcome is equal, no matter how unequal the content of the character (or in the case of firefighters, physical ability) is. (semi-snark). Oh, and Mannie hits it out of the park.

  • Doesn’t this test almost guarantee disparate impact against the overweight? How can such injustice stand?

  • Can’t remember the last time I saw a fireman run 1.5 miles during a fire anyway. Can’t think have something a little more apt, like running 30 flights of stairs in full gear in less than 10 minutes?

  • Well, no NFL player has been asked to run a shuttle cone drill or bench press 225 lbs for reps during a game, either. Yet the NFL tests those drills to assess overall strength and quickness. Likewise, if you can’t run 1.5 miles at a 8 minute per mile pace, chances are very good that you can’t lug your gear up a few flights of stairs without being utterly gassed out.

  • Kilroy,

    For safety reasons, firefighters are not supposed to run on the fire ground.

    1.5 mile run is supposed to be a test of overall aerobic fitness. I have long argued that it is a poor measure. I used to run Cross country in high school. I find it easy to do. I know other guys who don’t have any running skills, find it extremely difficult, but they are in really good shape. I have seen them walk 3 miles in 45 minutes carrying a 45 lb pack. That is the national wildland firefighter standard. Personally, I find it difficult to walk that fast for that long, without running. But I also feel it is a better test than the 1.5 mile run.

    Put her on a bike, or swim, or walk, there are lots of other good tests of physical fitness. She doesn’t look very tall. Maybe she doesn’t have the stride to make that run in 12 minutes.

  • You guys are a bunch of whiners. You would place some mope’s life above this woman’s right to do whatever job she wishes, regardless of her ability to do it. Would you be brave enough to go to work every day and face the scornful men who think that just because you can’t do the job, you shouldn’t have the job? She is braver far than you!


  • The military has had drastically lower standards for females forever. A 19-21 year old female has a push up requirement that is the same as a 50 year old male.

  • Oops, should have said Navy and not the military in general.

  • Since we’re “norming” standards to better fit the inner self, shouldn’t an old woman trapped in a young man’s body only have to meet the standards for AARP-eligible females?

  • Have any of you taken a look at the obesity and BMI stats of the firefighters in this country? They are so out of shape, they should welcome a smart lady that can run 1.5 miles in 12:23. I would love to see her race some of the fat butts in the NYFD and if she wins, they lose their jobs!

  • I thought it a bit odd that there was a discussion of a foot injury, but no details about it.

    I know plenty of folks that can run marathons when healthy — and run them fast — but can’t cover the firefighter distance of 1.5M in the required time when injured.

    Perhaps it is a legitimate hit job on her, or perhaps it’s just the NY Post being the NY Post with its own agenda and skewing the story the way the like it.

    Impossible to tell due to the limited info.

  • I agree with many of the comments here. But the 1.5 miles is not an awful test. They key is stamina to do the job not being able to run to get to the fire. Presumably, and I’m making all of this up but it has to be right, is that there are cardio demands over an extended period of time. So while she might not be running, it is a legitimate test of cardio. She’s obviously in good shape but when you have bright line rules, you get what you get. And as far as bright line rules go, this one is not awful

  • […] For an excerpt from my discussion in The Excuse Factory of litigation challenging timed tests for firefighters, see this 2007 post. [New York Post, earlier] […]