A former member of the Lackawanna City Council is in line to become the city’s first female firefighter.
Rebecca L. Sireika, who spent eight months in 2012 as 2nd Ward councilwoman, will attend the Utica Fire Academy beginning in April for 14 weeks of training.
Mayor Geoffrey M. Szymanski selected Sireika as one of three candidates from a civil service list to receive the training and join the city Fire Department.
“I think it will be great for our department,” said Szymanski. “I just thought it would be a great idea for the city and great for our image.”
Sireika, 26, said she was eager to become the city’s first female firefighter, but she didn’t envision shattering a gender barrier in the department when she took a civil service exam for the job three years ago.
“It wasn’t something that really crossed my mind,” she said.
A 2008 graduate of Buffalo State College, Sireika works as supervisor of family and county services for Heritage Centers, a Buffalo-based nonprofit agency that serves people with developmental disabilities.
She already has passed a required agility test to attend the fire academy.
Lackawanna is decades behind other cities in having women in the fire department. The city also has just one female police officer on its force.
By contrast, women first joined the Buffalo Fire Department in 1979. The department now has two female chiefs, and women make up about 5 percent of the department’s firefighters.
“It’s the way the world is going, and Lackawanna is getting on the same page,” said Sireika.
The Council last May appointed the former Rebecca L. Darch – she married Lackawanna School Board member Robert C. Sireika later in 2012 – to the 2nd Ward seat vacated by Szymanski when he became mayor.
Sireika then lost a Democratic primary to current 2nd Ward Councilwoman Annette Iafallo.
The mayor supported Iafallo for the post.
Sireika said she supported Szymanski’s candidacy for mayor.
“When this came around, he said, ‘It wasn’t that I was against you, I was just for Annette,’ ” Sireika recounted.
Fire Chief Ralph Galanti said the department would have to make some modifications, such as adding separate changing areas, to its fire stations to accommodate women.
But Galanti said he didn’t anticipate Sireika’s having difficulty being accepted into the department.
“I think she’ll be welcomed,” he said. “We have a younger department. ... You really don’t have that old guard from years ago that you might have had trouble with.”
Many of the firefighters are already aware of Sireika’s pending appointment, and “it hasn’t been an issue at all,” Galanti added.