FLATLANDS, Brooklyn (PIX11) -- She became one of the very few new FDNY female firefighters upon graduation from the academy on Tuesday, but because her score on one vital exam was not up to standard, some of New York's Bravest veterans are saying that new firefighter Rebecca Wax shouldn't even get another chance to prove herself, even though she met the overall requirements, and even though somebody broke the law by leaking information about her test results.
The firefighter graduation ceremony on Tuesday began solemnly, with a tribute to fallen police officer Brian Moore. Mayor Bill de Blasio had phoned in his regrets that he would not be in attendance, in contrast to countless firefighter graduations in the past, where mayors have customarily attended.
But it was one other aspect of the graduation that had garnered even more attention that the FDNY was not necessarily eager to have.
"Fitness has to be a big part of your life," said firefighters' union president Steve Cassidy to the graduating probationary firefighters. He was referring to the need for academy graduates about to remain fit in their firefighting careers, but his point related to the FDNY's fitness exam, which ended up taking center stage.
The exam is called the functional skills test, or FST. Wax, 33, was the only one of the 305 newest probationary, or probie, firefighters who did not complete the FST in the time required.
Specifically, it took Wax, who is one of only three female graduates in the latest fire academy class, more than four minutes longer to finish the exam than the nearly eighteen allotted test minutes for the FST. Still, she was deemed eligible to graduate.
"Every graduate met the standards" for graduation, said Fire Commissioner Daniel Nigro after the ceremony.
"The requirements have changed with every class," he added. "Those that met them graduated today."
He also pointed out that some 15 other cadets who had entered the fire academy with Wax did not complete the requirements for graduation, and as a result, were no longer in the running for consideration as firefighters.
Wax, however, met the standards for elevation to probationary firefighter. Those standards were changed for the most recent academy class, as they've been done for some classes in the past, as the Women's Firefighters Group president pointed out.
"The current requirement," said Women Firefighters United president Sarinya Srisakul, "is the same as 2008."
She said that, in consideration of the current staffing needs of the department, the commissioner decided to revise the graduation requirements to those of seven years ago.
There is an additional issue involved in the Wax graduation situation, and it may be far more serious than Wax having graduated with a sub par physical test score.
"People disagreeing with Rebecca graduating," said Srisakul, "illegally leaked information to the press. That is what we cannot stand."
Finding out who leaked Wax's scores is punishable by potential jail time, but getting anyone to reveal who did it is about as difficult as getting Wax to comment about her situation (she won't), or getting veteran firefighters to go on the record to talk about Wax (they won't either).
Off the record, some veterans told PIX11 News that they were concerned that she may not be able to hold her own or perform to the extent necessary in the potentially life and death situation of firefighting.
They veteran firefighters also pointed out, however, that probie firefighters are called that because they are allowed a year's probation -- a year to prove themselves on the job.
If Probationary Firefighter Rebecca Wax can do that, she'll get to remain with the 45 other women, and 10,500 men who make up the FDNY.