Firefighter Class Is Biggest Ever

By William Murphy

August 13, 2003

The largest class of probationary firefighters in the city's history - 346 - graduated from the academy yesterday.

The first city Fire Department, formed after the Civil War, had fewer members than that, Chief of Department Frank Cruthers told the graduates and guests at Brooklyn College.

Department records show the largest class in the past was on May 5, 2002, when 316 firefighters graduated, a department spokesman said later.

Cruthers said that before Sept. 11, 2001, the department typically trained 300 probationary firefighters in separate classes in an average year.

"It is really quite a day. You are the largest class to graduate from the Fire Academy," Mayor Michael Bloomberg told the sea of blue-uniformed probationaries, whose applause was muffled by their white gloves.

The class was also the first to graduate from the new $45-million Fire Department Training Academy on Randalls Island.

The academy includes a state-of-the-art simulator for fighting fires and a 6,000-square-foot "burn building" in which different types of structures are set on fire to make the training more lifelike.

"I am confident that today's graduates, who are joining the best-equipped and trained fire department ever, will selflessly serve their fellow New Yorkers with the professionalism that typifies the FDNY," Bloomberg said.

Although Bloomberg has come under harsh criticism for eliminating six firefighting units, including the closing of three firehouses, he got a warm reception from the audience.

He was applauded several times, and stopped speaking at one point and told the audience it was OK to applaud.

The recruits had just finished 13 weeks of basic firefighting training and will be assigned to fire commands around the city.

"Although your time at the training academy is complete, your education has just begun," Fire Commissioner Nicholas Scoppetta said.