The Glendale Fire Department received key support this week for an upcoming firefighter academy as hundreds of applicants hoping to be selected took written exams.

The support came from the City Council, which on Tuesday approved the allocation of $624,000 to pay for written exams, psychological exams, polygraph tests, interviews and background checks as well as equipping and training new firefighters.

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About $166,000 of the academy's cost is covered by surplus funds in the fire department, which resulted from savings due to vacancies, said city spokesman Tom Lorenz.

The department is looking to quickly hire 15 firefighters to fill current vacancies and imminent retirements to minimize the cost of overtime staffing.

Of the more than 3,200 job seekers who submitted applications for fire positions, almost 3,000 met the requirements, Lorenz said. This week, 1,481 candidates took written exams, which were administered in the Glendale Civic Auditorium and wrapped up Friday, he added.

Mayor Dave Weaver said the appeal of firefighting has grown over the years.

“When I was growing up, we used to want to chase fire engines, but didn't necessarily want to be a firemen — some did, some didn't,” Weaver said. “Look at now, it's a desirable profession to be in for many reasons so that's why the big turnout.”

The top 300 to 400 test-takers will be selected to take part in oral interviews, Fire Chief Harold Scoggins said. After that, department officials will select 30 to 50 candidates to undergo background checks, which cost $1,000 each.

The 15 recruits selected will receive new equipment and gear, which costs about $2,500 per person. The recruits' salaries and benefits will also be covered during the 13-week academy.

Glendale fire staffers will run the academy as well as instruct and train recruits on adhering to city and department policies, working as a team and following orders. Recruits will also learn the fundamentals of firefighting and how to properly operate equipment used by the department.

Scroggins said fire department staff members visited various neighborhoods to recruit women and minorities in an effort to diversify the department so it reflects the community.

Firefighters also created posters and passed out business cards and information about the department's recruitment efforts to residents. They have also tried reaching out to potential recruits via Twitter and Facebook.

“We are taking active steps,” Scoggins said. “There's always more we can do, but we have come a long way in the last 10 years, and I believe in the progress that we're making with the firefighters that we have.”

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