Serving The Community

New York’s Bravest

We proudly partnered with the FDNY Foundation to create The Bravest Coat, honouring the spirit and unwavering strength of men and women in uniform. Here, three of the ten thousand FDNY firefighters share their stories, offering a personal view of the communities they serve and what it takes to be one of The Bravest.

Community is solidarity

Jackie Martinez

Engine 275, Ladder 133

Jackie Martinez doesn’t believe in girl push-ups. “It’s a push-up, or it’s a modified push-up. They didn’t create them for girls.” Within two years, she wants to see two hundred women working beside her in the male-dominated ranks of the FDNY.

A born and raised New Yorker, Jackie dedicates her days off to training female recruits across the city. She simulates high-rise drills on park steps, pulls equipment across the streets of South Jamaica, and does whatever she can to ensure they are prepared—both mentally and physically—to pass the Fire Academy’s ultimate test.

I’m stepping out of the shadows so women can see themselves doing this career.

She remembers the day she saw the FDNY recruitment poster—her life changed forever. It showed three women with the message, “Join New York’s Bravest”. Before that day, Jackie had never seen a female firefighter, let alone aspired to be one. She credits her late mother for encouraging her to strive for greatness. When she joined the FDNY in 2006, she was known as number 29—the 29th female firefighter out of 10,500 men. “Think about it. That’s less than 1%.” Jackie has witnessed the power of public awareness, and she knows there’s still much work to be done. “I’m stepping out of the shadows so women can see themselves doing this career.”

Card image Editor's note

Her natural ability to connect with people has led her back to school, this time as a mentor for high school students. Armed with bunker gear and a passion for helping others, she’s going beyond her firehouse and into neighbourhoods to inspire young women to join the FDNY, one push-up at a time. Today, Jackie Martinez is number 29 out of 68 women—and counting. “I’m not saying this career is for everyone. My job is very dangerous. But if you have a willing heart and you want to help your community, you can do it.”

Merrick Blvd Magic

Community is family

Joe Tarantini

Engine 289, Ladder 138

Joe Tarantini can’t turn it off. He’s a firefighter all the time. He meets every challenge with loyalty, trust and empathy—values that are central to his daily life and career. “I honestly don’t know where I would be without the fire department. It’s made me who I am today.”

Joe wanted to be in the FDNY for as long as he can remember. He grew up playing with firetrucks and was inspired by a firefighter he’d see at the local supermarket. The day he put on his uniform, he didn’t want to take it off. Twenty-three years later, he says he wouldn’t want to be a firefighter anywhere but New York City. “It’s the largest department in the world, steeped in tradition and history.”

Even in a small way, you can make a difference in somebody’s life.

He works in Corona, a vibrant Queens neighbourhood with a large Hispanic population. As the son of Italian immigrants, Joe sees his family in the people of Corona. “My parents came here struggling, not knowing the language. But they worked hard. The people in the community are really a tremendous inspiration.”

Joe has risked his life many times throughout his storied career. He was a firefighter on 9/11. In 2005, he represented the FDNY in New Orleans, supporting devastated communities after Hurricane Katrina. “I just want to help people. Even in a small way, you can make a difference in somebody’s life.” No matter the scenario, the contribution Joe makes is always personal to him. “People look at us like these super heroes. But we’re human. We make mistakes. We hurt.”

Editor Note - Joe Editor's note

Joe felt incredibly proud the day his son put on his own FDNY uniform in 2016. But seeing the job of a firefighter through the eyes of a father is a new challenge for him. He knows the risks all too well, and like any parent, he fears for his son’s safety. But he also knows the personal reward that comes from his service to the community. “Firefighters put on their gear and run into those buildings not knowing who’s on the other side of that wall of flames. They go, putting their lives on the line—it’s an incredible act of humanity.”

Corona Tigers

Community is belonging

Allen Maikels

Engine 34, Ladder 21

Allen Maikels was fifteen years old on September 11, 2001. He grew up 150 miles north of New York, and his childhood was spent enjoying family trips to Manhattan to see the Christmas lights. He was always drawn to the city’s energy but he wasn’t sure if he’d ever become a New Yorker. All of that changed on 9/11. What he wanted to do with his life became clear and his journey began.

Allen was always interested in helping people. He worked as a paramedic before entering the Fire Academy. Feelings of self-doubt were a constant battle throughout his training. In moments of weakness, Allen found strength in thinking of the brave men and women who came before him. Ordinary people performing extraordinary acts in service of their community. They were his inspiration and so he kept pushing.

It’s about doing the right thing. Whatever needs to be done, we’re going to do it. That’s our job.

Five years later, he feels at home in the FDNY. His firehouse is in Hell’s Kitchen, a midtown community not far from the Lincoln Tunnel and the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey—two vital passageways for millions of commuters every day. The next emergency is always looming. But in times of adversity, he relies on the sister and brotherhood of the New York City firefighters. “We’re automatically in the same club. There’s trust and mutual respect without meeting that person. It’s a second family.”

Editor's note

Allen believes prevention is the first line of protection, and reminds us of the role we can all play in saving lives through the work of his firehouse and the FDNY Foundation. “If there are people to do CPR ahead of time, before the firefighters or paramedics get there, that’s huge.” He protects his community above all, just like the heroes who came before him. When the alarm sounds, he’s ready to respond. “It’s about doing the right thing. Whatever needs to be done, we’re going to do it. That’s our job.”

Pride of Hell's Kitchen