Hot job applicants

Saturday, March 12, 2005

At 3 p.m. Friday the names of 11 people were posted at Cape Girardeau Fire Station No. 1. Those 11 were the ones who passed the written test on Thursday and the physical agility test Friday to be considered for a full-time firefighter position -- one of three newly created jobs.

Andrew Meyr, 21, of Perryville, Mo., learned shortly after the list was posted that his name was on it.

Meyr is one of 77 people who applied, one of 56 applicants to take the written test, and one of 38 -- four of them women -- who passed the written test and qualified to take the physical agility test Friday morning, said training officer Fred Vincel.

The beginning salary is around $28,000, Vincel said, considerably more than what beginning firefighters earned prior to the city sales tax increase that made the three new positions possible. Two positions were filled in recent months.

Friday's test was a way of selecting a candidate who can withstand the physical rigors of the job. Meyr said there's really no way to prepare for it.

Meyr said he is "fairly religious" about working out and staying in shape, and has worked with the Perryville Fire Department for about a year and a half. He has an associate's degree in firefighting from Mineral Area College in Farmington, Mo., and has completed two levels of certification required for Missouri firefighters, but he said he had never encountered anything as tough as Friday morning's test.

Vincel said the applicants had to simulate ventilating a roof, which meant climbing to the roof of the fire station and with a sledge hammer moving a railroad tie four feet. The applicants also took a ladder from a fire truck and brought it back to the truck, dragged a dry hose 200 feet, hoisted a roll of hose held together with a rope up one floor, extended a 24-foot extension ladder, carried a 70-pound high rise pack of 150 feet of hose in a canvas sack up and down three fights of stairs, and dragged a 160-pound mannequin -- all in seven minutes while wearing firefighting gear.

"It's pretty brutal," Vincel said.

Meyr agrees. He said probably the hardest part was the sledge hammer.

The written test from Thursday night was equally challenging. Vincel said the exam did not ask specific questions, butis designed to test an applicant's ability to think quickly and make decisions based on different scenarios firefighters may have to face. Applicants had two hours in which to take the exam.

Not all of the applicants had emergency medical technician training, but whoever is hired will have to be trained within a year. Meyr said he has the EMT training, but is not yet certified.

"We will have a variety of people to evaluate," Vincel said.

The 11 applicants who made the cut Friday will be interviewed today, Vincel said. A panel of examiners will talk with each of the applicants, will review their findings, and will pass that information on to chief Rick Ennis, who makes the final decision. Ennis said he may make a choice by next week.

Vincel said that the new recruits will be on probation for a year. They will first work at 40-hour orientation week, then began a regular shift rotation. During their first year, they will go through three different phases of testing.

After watching the applicants go through their paces Friday, the firefighters who were on duty decided to see if they still have what it takes. They have to have what it takes, said Capt. Brad Dillow, who finished the test in the least amount of time. "The job is too strenuous not to. We have some down time, but when we are working, we're working at 110 percent."

"It's just the way they are," Ennis said. "Firefighters are competitive people. They made a contest of it to see who could do it in the shortest time."

Dillow, 35, a firefighter for 10 years, finished the test in four minutes and 43 seconds.

Whoever is hired will need to keep up with him.

335-6611, extension 160

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