Sarinya Srisakul, 37, is the first Asian-American female firefighter to serve New York City.
She started working at the New York Fire Department in 2005. At the time, she was the only woman in her firehouse.
To date, she remains the only female firefighter of Asian descent in the department, according to the Women’s Media Center.
Srisakul’s battle against fire started just after 9/11 when a friend invited her to an orientation. Little did the former art student know that it would be her career in the years to come.
“They didn’t all look like Chyna the wrestler,” she told Glamour, recalling the female firefighters who staffed her training. “There were fat women, short women, skinny women. I realized, if they can do it, they’re no different than me.”
Srisakul hard work eventually made her a firefighter. In the course of her career, she found herself in many unforgettable situations, including responding to a code for a major [building] collapse, climbing 100 flights of stairs, and encouraging a female trainee who wanted to quit — for feeling discriminated by men — to continue training.
Today, Srisakul has gone beyond a firefighter, serving as the president of the United Women Firefighters (UWF). In this role, she helps women train to become firefighters and supports them in various ways, such as mental health workshops.
With her efforts, the NYFD has seen a notable increase of female firefighters — from 37 in 2013 to 68 at present.
Recently, she became the first to receive The Freedom Award, a recognition from Glamour’s 2017 Women of the Year event. The award, presented by Netflix, was inspired by its original biographical series “The Crown”
Needless to say, Srisakul’s mission of promoting social justice and gender equality inspires many. She acknowledges the fact that female citizens of New York City need help; for instance, in the event that a woman passes out naked in a room, she would be the one sent in.
At the core of her work, she cites one thing that makes her a good firefighter, telling Got a Girl Crush earlier this year:
“Empathy. The main tenet of doing this job to help others and being an integral part of the community that you serve.”
When asked for a tip on how to be more heroic, Srisakul suggests asking oneself what to do to make their community a better place:
“The main thing about being “heroic” is about helping others, especially those that face adversity. There is no shortage of being a heroine no matter what your personality is like. Especially in this day in age, there is so much adversity, especially here in the United States under this current administration and there are many ways in which you can be heroic and resist.
“Heroism happens everyday and in every way. Ask yourself, what can I do to make my community a better place? That is the first step to being heroic.”
Thank you for your service, Srisakul!