LAFD to hire 165 firefighters after recruiting controversy

Daily News

LOS ANGELES — With a new fire chief awaiting confirmation and thousands of expected applicants, the city of Los Angeles is beginning the process of hiring 165 new firefighters even as standards and procedures are being revamped to avoid the problems that have plagued the department in the past.

Applications will be accepted from 8 a.m. today through midnight Thursday. Mayor Eric Garcetti, who last week selected Assistant Chief Ralph Terrazas to be the next chief, had previously pushed up the hiring deadline to fill vacancies and help reduce response times.

Garcetti spokesman Yusef Robb said the mayor believes bringing in additional firefighters is critical to keeping our city safe.

“Mayor Garcetti directed that steps were taken to restart hiring now through an improved process,” he said. “The new process will continue to be reviewed as we look ahead to more hiring over the next year. The goal is to ensure there is a level playing field that results in hiring the best possible firefighters.”

The move comes even as a report is still in the works by the RAND Corp. on how hiring procedures should be amended. RAND officials said they hope to have a draft to city officials by the end of July.

The department’s criteria for candidates came under criticism this year because of the number of recruits who were related to firefighters, as well as accusations that some received special training to prepare them for the process.

Some 850 applicants who had previously cleared the city requirements are now being required to reapply to the department to put candidates on equal footing.

Frank Lima, president of the United Firefighters of Los Angeles City, has estimated the LAFD has lost 560 firefighters over the last six years and continues to lose about 10 a month through retirement or other factors.

Those interested in joining the department will need to begin the process by clicking on the “For Job Seekers” tab atop the city website’s homepage at www.lacity.org.

“We are going to use a stratified random sampling to get the number of applicants down to about 300,” said Gloria Sosa, assistant general manager of the personnel department, noting they’ll look at the totality of hopefuls, break them down by gender and ethnicity and then randomly select a smaller group.

Those chosen to move on will be eligible to take a written test on Aug. 2 that gauges reading, math and mechanical aptitude. After passing that bar, applicants will undergo more detailed background checks, including medical and psychological tests.

The final group of candidates will be selected by the fire chief to move on to formal firefighter training.

Sosa said the city this year hopes to create two classes of 60 and one of 45 to reduce the number of vacancies. Starting salary for recruits is $59,382, with city benefits kicking in immediately for those hired.

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