FIRE Commissioner Salvatore J. Cassano and I recently presided over a graduation ceremony for 285 probationary firefighters.

The new firefighters, known as “probies,” graduated after completing a rigorous training program at the Department’s Fire Academy located on Randall’s Island.

This is the first Fire Department probationary class since 2008 and is the most diverse in the Department’s history, with 40 percent of its members minorities — including 13 percent African-American, 23 percent Hispanic and four percent Asian.

This class also includes five women, which is the most women in a probationary firefighter class in more than 30 years.

Previously, the most diverse class was the 2008 class, when 35 percent of the new firefighters were minority.

All 285 members of the class have previously served the city as emergency medical technicians and paramedics with the FDNY Bureau of EMS.

Among the graduates, 26 have served in the United States military, with six having served in combat.

Several hundred family members, friends and fellow firefighters joined the commissioner and I to congratulate the new class at the ceremony held in the Walt Whitman Theater at Brooklyn College.

This year’s graduating class of probationary firefighters is the most diverse class in the Department’s history.

They come from all variety of backgrounds — but there’s something they all have in common: courage, determination and the sense of duty that drives a select few to join the FDNY.

That kind of commitment to protecting others is what makes this the best Fire Department in the nation, and it is key to why New York remains the nation’s safest big city.

“These new probies are coming to the firefighter ranks with an incredible amount of knowledge in medical response thanks to years of dedicated service in our Bureau of EMS delivering the best pre-hospital care found anywhere in the world,” said Commissioner Cassano.

“In their new roles as firefighters, they will continue their life-saving work, putting their lives on the line to protect all who live in, work in and visit New York City from fire and all types of serious emergencies.”

Probationary Firefighter Christopher Geraghty was honored for being the class valedictorian, and Probationary Firefighter Matthew Nolan was the class salutatorian.

The Physical Fitness Award was given to Probationary Firefighter Robert Fredette.

One member of the class is the son of a fallen firefighter: Probationary Firefighter Ryan Blackwell’s father, Firefighter Chris Blackwell of Rescue 3, died in the line of duty on Sept. 11, 2001.

This class of firefighters received 18 weeks of extensive training at the FDNY Fire Academy in fire suppression and medical response — including training at the FDNY high-rise fire simulator and subway simulator — featuring actual NYC Transit cars; hazmat training, collapse and confined space rescue training, and auto extrication.

In addition, the new firefighters were educated on the fire code, received peace officer training and trained in building inspection, as well as procedures for engine and ladder operations.

The probationary firefighters will now be assigned to firehouses throughout the city, where they will gain field experience under the guidance of senior firefighters and officers.

Last year, New York City recorded the lowest number of fire-related deaths — 58 — since record-keeping began in 1916 and closed out the safest decade ever for fire-related incidents.

Since 2002, the city has averaged 85 civilian fire deaths per year, a 41 percent improvement over the previous 10 years, when there were an average of 144 fire deaths per year.

The FDNY is also responding to fires and other life threatening emergencies faster than ever.

Firefighters now arrive on an average of 20 seconds faster than they did a decade ago and ambulance response times now average six minutes, 30 seconds — a one-second improvement over the record set in 2011.

More information about joining the FDNY can be found at