After a few years of budget cuts and layoffs, the Minneapolis Fire Department is growing again, and Thursday was a big day for the 10 new cadets that will join the ranks.
"Something I've always wanted to do my entire life," Greg Jurek told Fox 9 News. "Finally, dream comes true and I get to work for Minneapolis."
Jurek applied to be a Minneapolis firefighter 7 years ago and spent five years waiting in limbo before the hiring lull abated. Now, he's a member of the second class of 2013.
The growth marks a big step for the department for a few reasons -- one being the complaints from the firefighters' union that staff is stretched too thin and response times are too long. The other step is a technological one that allows the team to show off their skills.
At the ceremony, footage from a Go-Pro camera showed the view of a firefighter climbing out a 6th-floor window and descending down the training tower.
Going forward, Deputy Chief JR Klepp says the department hopes to do away with their old habit of hiring huge groups at once and then waiting to welcome new faces while the department aged. Now, they hope to hire smaller groups, including another class that will begin training in spring.
"We just had an entrance exam. I believe 2,800 people applied for the position," Klepp said. "That was pared down to just under 300. That will be the list we will hire off of."
Minneapolis had nearly 500 firefighters in the late 1970s, but the layoffs a few years ago dropped the staff level down to about 350. The new hires put the numbers closer to 400 again, but the department still can't predict how many may retire in the future or when.