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College Park flooded with fire department applications

By Daniel Silliman

dsilliman@news-daily.com

The College Park Fire Department is aggressively recruiting to fill 20 open positions, and it's accepting applications from as far away as Miami and Maryland, and talking to a slew of firefighters leaving budget-strapped Atlanta.

Cedric Scott, the fire department's chief, is using the recruitment process to talk about what a great department he has, and the "great things" happening in the small, airport-adjacent city.

"We're right on the cutting edge now," said Scott at a open house Tuesday morning. "As my daughter used to say, it's going to be 'off the chain.' Off the chain. It's going to be great ... We want to be a leader in fire services."

According to the city's spokesman, Gerald Walker, the plans for an open house and other aggressive recruiting efforts were made prior to news of fire staff reductions in East Point and Atlanta. Those cities have had tense budget hearings and public, controversial reductions in staff, but College Park, meanwhile, has a large budget surplus and airport-oriented developments going on.

A couple of weeks ago, Scott was invited to speak to Atlanta firefighters who had just completed the training academy and found their positions were eliminated.

At the open house, the first question from the public was, "Do y'all offer anything for people who've been in fire services for a time?"

Kevin Harris, the fire department's training officer, said the department has excellent starting pay -- "We're among the top, and we know it" -- and has been flooded with applications.

"We get calls from every where, every day," Harris said. "The applications are stacked up. We're probably going to have to close the [application] process in August. Our plan, in the future, is to keep it open all the time, but right now, we're getting overwhelmed."

Of the dozen people at the Georgia International Convention Center, five said they had worked for another fire department before.

Scott said he hoped to use the glut of applications to bring in high-caliber firefighters to fill all open positions, and attract some talent and experience.

"We're not just trying to get by, and we're not looking for people who want to fly under the RADAR," Scott said. "'Be the best you can be and our team is going to be the best it can be.' That's my philosophy."

Applicants with experience could go to work in about two weeks.

Applicants without experience must pass two oral exams, a written exam, a background check and a physical test.