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Wilmington Fire Department candidates are participating in the newest fire academy

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The Wilmington Fire Department is looking to bolster its ranks this summer.

Fifteen recruits recently began their firefighter training at the city's 43rd Academy. The 15, including one woman, qualified from 135 applicants this year.

Wilmington Fire Chief John Looney says applicants had to go through a 16-week pre-certification process to qualify to attend the academy.

“Once applications are completed, we conduct a physical agility test. We have a passing score for this and it is “pass” or “fail”. If you successfully pass the physical agility test, start with the written test. Then there is a hundred-question written test provided by a third-party provider.”

Applicants who passed were then interviewed by a group of senior firefighters and then by the chief.

After graduating from the academy in July, recruits will receive national certifications as Pro Board FireFighters Levels I and II and as Nationally Registered Emergency Medical Technicians.

Chief Looney says the fire department's EMT certification is critical to the success of first responders in Wilmington.

“We currently have 153 nationally registered emergency responders who are on the streets every day responding to medical emergencies. Our engines and ladders respond to medical emergencies depending on the severity of the incident and often they are there before the ambulance arrives and they are already beginning to care for the sick person.”

When all fifteen recruits progress through the academy, the fire department will have its authorized strength of 156 firefighters.