Los Angeles City Fire Department to lift hiring freeze in fall


Some firefighter hopefuls have been going through rigorous training sessions for years, all for a chance to join the ranks of the Los Angeles Fire Department.

"I've been waiting -- the last time I tested was 2008," said LAFD applicant J.P. Villapando. "I was really bummed when I got the notification that they stopped hiring. Ever since I was a kid I knew this is what I wanted."

"I've wanted to be a firefighter since I can remember as a young kid, watching those fire trucks go by and wondering if I can ever do that kind of job," said applicant Jose Castillo. "The time has come. I was in the process in '07-'08, but it got cut with the budget cuts. I didn't give up. I'm still trying."

The LAFD drill tower in Panorama City hasn't seen recruits in three years. Now the fire department is expecting 15,000 to 20,000 applicants vying for the chance to train there.

"It's not really a matter of us being a lot pickier, but the pool of individuals that will be applying will be much higher, which allows us to pick from the cream of the crop," said LA Fire Captain Jaime Moore.

"Sometimes you get doubts, but you have to always look forward towards them hiring again and being able to get your shot," said LAFD applicant Tom Chavez.

The new class is expected to start in 2013, but firefighters suggest applicants prepare now.

The L.A. City Council approved the beginning of the process for the first time since a hiring freeze three years ago. But it still has to OK the entire budget for the 300 positions.

The department is looking for a diverse group that will reflect the community.

Shavonne Espinoza is one of the women looking to make her mark.

"This is what I need to get through, and I hope and I dream that this day comes my way when I'm walking through that Academy tower on graduation day," said Espinoza.

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