173 seek jobs with fire department

By David Skolnick



It’s a dangerous job with a starting annual salary of $24,000 and only two current openings, but there are plenty of people interested.

As of Wednesday, 173 people had applied to take tests — written and physical — to join the Youngstown Fire Department.

The deadline to sign up to take the tests is 4 p.m. Friday.

Applications must be submitted to the Civil Service Commission’s office on the seventh floor of city hall, 26 S. Phelps St.

So why would that many people seek a job with a starting annual salary that’s just above the national poverty for a family of four?

“There’s a sector of the population that want to help people, and this is what they want to do with their lives,” said Fire Chief John J. O’Neill. “Also, you get fringe benefits that are better than many jobs for young people around here.”

Though the starting pay is relatively low, it consistently increases annually to $35,000 during a firefighter’s fifth year with the department and to $52,500 during a firefighter’s 10th year. Before the change, it took six years on the department to get to the highest annual salary for a firefighter.

“Some say, ‘I can see where I will be in five, 10, 15 years during a career’” as a Youngstown firefighter, O’Neill said. “If you look past the first year, you’re going to make a decent living.”

Firefighter applicants will take the written test at 9 a.m. Aug. 6.

A physical fitness and agility test will be given at a later date. That test includes running a half-mile, climbing a 100-foot high ladder and other strenuous activities including carrying fire hoses and a 150-pound mannequin.

There should be about 10 positions open with the department in the next two years.

The results of civil-service tests for firefighters is good for two years, and the city’s current firefighter hiring list expired June 18. The department hired about 20 firefighters during the past two years.

The city hired FPSI — Fire & Police Selections Inc. of Folsom, Calif. — for $11,300 to provide the Aug. 6 written test and grade it; the city also will have the firm conduct an orientation class for the test.

At that class, the date is not yet scheduled, FPSI will give participants an overview of the testing process and offer a practice test to help applicants gain familiarity with the exam and to help them determine what areas they need to study, said Jennifer Lewis, the city’s Civil Service Commission administrator.

FPSI’s test complies with Equal Employment Opportunity Commission requirements, city Law Director Iris Torres Guglucello has said.

The city changed its longstanding police and firefighter hiring practices because a federal appeals court ruled that a policy similar to it in Shreveport, La., was unconstitutional and because of criticism from the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights.

For decades, the city had dual hiring lists — one for white men, who typically score higher, and the other for minorities and females. The city would hire one minority or female for every two white men it hired.

Youngstown now will offer jobs to those who score the highest on the tests.