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EXCLUSIVE: Behind The Scenes Look At Women Training To Join FDNY

NEW YORK (CBSNewYork) -- Joining the ranks of the New York City Fire Department is no easy task. Now, more women are signing up to join than ever before.

But how do they measure up to the men?

In a CBS 2 exclusive, reporter Jessica Schneider went behind the scenes as women trained to join the department.

They yearn to be part of New York's Bravest, but to stand shoulder to shoulder with the men of the FDNY, women have to endure the same grueling entrance exam.

"It can be done. It's not just some male-dominated job that men can only do," said Regina Wilson, the president of the United Women Firefighters Association.

The hopeful female firefighters that CBS 2's Schneider met were halfway there. They passed the written exam and were training for the physical test.

There are only 35 women among the 10,000 firefighters in all of New York City. But due to a recent lawsuit the FDNY wants to hire more to double the number of women in the department.

"I'm out here, training hard. If I have to be out here every day until I get hired, until I'm 50, whatever I've got to do," said Josephine Smith.

For Smith, it's been five years of determination. She said firefighting is a job that runs in her blood.

"I used to go to the firehouse with my dad, played with the trucks, did it all," Smith said.

Her father was with Hazmat Squad 288 on Sept. 11, 2001.

"He was down there. He said, 'I'm here, I'm okay' and I never heard from him again," Smith said. "He'd be absolutely proud. I think about it sometimes. If my dad was here watching me, it [would be] be cool."

Jessica Schneider FDNY Training
Jessica Schneider FDNY Training (CBS 2)

Michelle Carter is an emergency medical technician ready to take her public service to the next level.

"I'm doing it for my daughter," Carter said. "She already calls me a superhero. She'll really look up to me."

She first took the FDNY exam more than a decade ago.

"I found out when this exam came out that I had another opportunity after 11 years to go for it again. So I went for it," she said.

The final test for those wanting to become firefighters is a course that has eight different events that they must complete in less than 10 minutes and 20 seconds.

CBS 2's Schneider didn't train for it, but figured she would be up for the challenge.

"It's a test designed to simulate the tasks assigned in firefighting," said Lt. Mike Cacciola, the Director of Health and Fitness for the FDNY.

It starts with 14 stories of steps to simulate climbing a high-rise. Plus, all firefighter hopefuls are loaded down with 75 pounds of weight on their body.

Up next was the hose pull, followed by the saw carry.  The final four events included breaking down a locked door, search and rescue, victim rescue while pulling a 165-pound dummy and overhauling, where candidates simulate busting through a ceiling to stop the spread of fire.

It's a tough test, but the female hopefuls said they are ready to take it on. Carter is on her way.  She recently passed the physical exam. Smith said she hopes to take it this summer.

"I just feel like I can do it," Carter said.

It's a positive attitude they plan to take all the way to the engine companies of the FDNY.

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