Sarinya says this explosion was the scariest day of her career in the FDNY.

John M. Mantel/Redux


R.1, R.3, L.4

A Real-Life Hero

Sarinya Srisakul is a fire lieutenant in New York City. We talked to her about her dangerous—but important—job.

Courtesy of Sarinya Srisakul

    Sarinya Srisakul was in a fire engine, sirens blaring. She had been called to an explosion. Most of the firefighters on the truck thought it would be a false alarm—they get a lot of those. But when they arrived, Sarinya saw a horrible scene. A building was starting to collapse. People were crawling out, hurt and afraid. 

    If you had seen it, you would’ve probably run in the other direction—and you should have! But Sarinya’s job was to go into the burning building. She’s one of thousands of firefighters in the Fire Department of New York City (FDNY). We talked to her about her important job.

You were the first Asian American  woman firefighter in New York City. What was that like?

    It was hard! I had to really prove myself. Everyone was waiting to see how I would do.

You help other women become firefighters. Why is that important?

    Only about 1 percent of people in the FDNY are women, and it’s hard when there aren’t other women around. You might get left out of things or not be taken seriously by your male co-workers. I want to help other women succeed—the FDNY needs them.

Why does the FDNY need women?

I want the FDNY to look as diverse as New York City does. There should be men, women, and people from different races and cultures. It’s important because we respond to all kinds of situations, not just fires. We get called to help when someone is hurt. If that person sees a firefighter who looks like them, they might feel more comfortable.

How does someone become a  firefighter in New York City?

    There are a lot of tests: a written test, a physical test, a medical test. And then you have to go to the fire academy. All in all, it takes about two to four years to become a firefighter.

What’s the best part of your job?

    I love that every day is different. I could never work in an office, doing the same thing every day. I love the excitement of getting a call and going to help people. And it’s fun to drive the fire engine and have everyone get out of your way! 

Courtesy of Sarinya Srisakul

Sarinya works hard to make the FDNY more diverse.

Mini Skills Workout

The author says the fire engine’s sirens were blaring. What do you think that word means?

What’s one reason Sarinya says it’s important for the FDNY to be diverse? 

Find a sentence in which Sarinya explains why it can be tough to be a female firefighter without other women around. Write it on a separate sheet of paper.

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