Following years of accusations of racism and lawsuits alleging discrimination, the FDNY accepted 19,260 applications from non-whites, out of the 42,161 total applicants this year. 1,952 of the applicants were women. “This is a huge step forward,” the department's assistant commissioner for recruitment Michele J. Maglione tells the Times. Michele J. Maglione. “We just opened the door to thousands of New Yorkers."

The exam is given every three or four years, but the city's refusal to institute hiring quotas for minorities has left the FDNY understaffed by about 500 firefighters and running up the budget. The city was ordered to pay $128 million in a settlement to minority applicants. Officials say they'll hire as many as 3,500 over a four-year period beginning next year.

Currently of the 10,000 firefighters in New York, 6% are Hispanic, 3% are black, and 1% are Asian, and there are only 28 female firefighters.