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NYC female firefighters trying to boost numbers

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New York City firefighter Sarinya Srisakul speaks about her work in the FDNY Tuesday, Jan. 28, 2014, at a Manhattan fire house. Srisakul, who didn’t work with another woman for five years, took pictures when she did because it was such a rarity. In the nation’s largest fire department, out of more than 10,500 uniformed firefighters, only 37 are women, one of the lowest percentages of any big-city department. That number is expected to grow after a record number of women took the latest exam following heavy recruitment spurred by a landmark court order three years ago, but advocates say more needs to be done. (AP Photo/Craig Ruttle)

New York City firefighter Sarinya Srisakul speaks about her work in the FDNY Tuesday, Jan. 28, 2014, at a Manhattan fire house. Srisakul, who didn’t work with another woman for five years, took pictures when she did because it was such a rarity. In the nation’s largest fire department, out of more than 10,500 uniformed firefighters, only 37 are women, one of the lowest percentages of any big-city department. That number is expected to grow after a record number of women took the latest exam following heavy recruitment spurred by a landmark court order three years ago, but advocates say more needs to be done. (AP Photo/Craig Ruttle)

New York City firefighter Sarinya Srisakul speaks about her work in the FDNY Tuesday, Jan. 28, 2014, at a Manhattan fire house. Srisakul, who didn’t work with another woman for five years, took pictures when she did because it was such a rarity. In the nation’s largest fire department, out of more than 10,500 uniformed firefighters, only 37 are women, one of the lowest percentages of any big-city department. That number is expected to grow after a record number of women took the latest exam following heavy recruitment spurred by a landmark court order three years ago, but advocates say more needs to be done. (AP Photo/Craig Ruttle)

New York City firefighter Sarinya Srisakul holds back pedestrians as she awaits a firetruck to exit a Manhattan firehouse as she goes on an emergency call Tuesday, Jan. 28, 2014, in New York. Srisakul, who didn’t work with another woman for five years, took pictures when she did because it was such a rarity. In the nation’s largest fire department, out of more than 10,500 uniformed firefighters, only 37 are women, one of the lowest percentages of any big-city department. That number is expected to grow after a record number of women took the latest exam following heavy recruitment spurred by a landmark court order three years ago, but advocates say more needs to be done. (AP Photo/Craig Ruttle)

New York City firefighter Sarinya Srisakul jumps on a firetruck that just exited a Manhattan firehouse on the way to an emergency call Tuesday, Jan. 28, 2014, in New York. Srisakul, who didn’t work with another woman for five years, took pictures when she did because it was such a rarity. In the nation’s largest fire department, out of more than 10,500 uniformed firefighters, only 37 are women, one of the lowest percentages of any big-city department. That number is expected to grow after a record number of women took the latest exam following heavy recruitment spurred by a landmark court order three years ago, but advocates say more needs to be done. (AP Photo/Craig Ruttle)

New York City firefighter Sarinya Srisakul awaits an exiting firetruck at a Manhattan firehouse as she is about to go on a emergency call Tuesday, Jan. 28, 2014, in New York. Srisakul, who didn’t work with another woman for five years, took pictures when she did because it was such a rarity. In the nation’s largest fire department, out of more than 10,500 uniformed firefighters, only 37 are women, one of the lowest percentages of any big-city department. That number is expected to grow after a record number of women took the latest exam following heavy recruitment spurred by a landmark court order three years ago, but advocates say more needs to be done. (AP Photo/Craig Ruttle)

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NEW YORK (AP) — As a New York City firefighter, Sarinya Srisakul didn’t work with another woman for five years, and when she did, she took pictures because it was so rare.

“We were so excited to see each other,” she said. “For me, that just doesn’t happen.”

There are only 37 women out of 10,500 uniformed firefighters in New York City, about a third of 1 percent, among the lowest percentage of any department in the nation. But that number is expected to grow after a record number of women took the latest exam following heavy recruitment spurred by a court order two years ago. Six women entered the fire academy just this week.

“Out of a city of 8 million people, there cannot be only 37 women who are qualified enough and interested in being firefighters — that’s just ridiculous,” said Srisakul, the president of the women’s firefighters association, which has made boosting numbers a priority. She is working to help women pass the rigorous physical exam and meet fire academy expectations to graduate into the job.

Nationwide, the firefighting profession remains overwhelmingly male, with women making up only 3.4 percent of the total workforce, according to federal labor statistics. Arguments for why there are so few women on the job are common: They don’t want to work in a dangerous, dirty industry, and they just aren’t strong enough to deal with the physical demands, which include wearing up to 125 pounds of gear or carrying unconscious victims down a darkened stairwell.

“We’ve tried to recruit women. The reality is for whatever reason, it doesn’t seem to be an attractive job,” said Steve MacDonald, spokesman for Boston’s fire department, which has 18 women out of a force of 1,470.

None of those arguments really holds water, according to Marc Bendick, an economic

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