First African American Woman Promoted To The Rank Of FDNY Fire Lieutenant In 12 Years

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Tracey Lewis, 41 of Brooklyn, will be promoted later this morning, alongside 55 other Fire Department City of New York (FDNY) members. Lewis will be the second ever African American woman firefighter to be promoted to the rank of lieutenant in the FDNY’s history (and the first in 12 years).

Lewis has proudly served the FDNY for 17 years, starting her career off in the FDNY cadet program in 1997. This program was instituted to teach college students fire science and earn their EMT licenses while getting their foot in the door with the FDNY. Lewis served her community as an EMT from 1998-2000. She was a part of the first class of EMS workers who were promoted to firefighters in 2000. She spent her fire career in Brooklyn and will be promoted out of Engine 222 of Bedford-Stuyvesant, Brooklyn.

Currently there are only 9 African American women who are working as firefighters and fire officers in the FDNY. Lewis will be the only officer. This is out of 40 total women and a force of nearly 10,400 members. With women making 0.4% of the force, African American women are a super minority in an already marginalized group.

In 1982, when the first women firefighters were hired by the FDNY following a landmark federal sex discrimination lawsuit, 11 out of 41 were African American. Joann Jacobs of Queens, was the first of the 11 to be promoted to fire marshal in 1992. Nearly 10 years later, Ella McNair 56 of Brooklyn, was the first of the group to be promoted to the rank of lieutenant.

In this tight-knit group, McNair and Lewis share more than one thing in common besides being the only African American women to be in their shoes: McNair retired out of the same battalion that Lewis is being promoted out of.

Lead photo courtesy of Tracey Lewis

Meet Tracey Lewis

In this video, the FDNY veteran talks about what inspired her to be a firefighter, why she loves the job and gives advice to women interested in joining the FDNY.