Lake Forest Fire Dept. candidates come out in droves
More than 400 potential candidates showed up for Lake Forest's first firefighter/paramedic orientation session in three years. There are currently no job openings in the department. | Joe Cyganowski~For Sun-Times Media
Updated: February 7, 2013 8:28AM
LAKE FOREST — More than 400 firefighter/paramedic candidates showed up for two orientation sessions in Lake Forest last week, and there aren’t even any job openings.
“I’ve been doing this since 1989 and this is the largest crowd I’ve ever seen,” DeSha Kalmar, the city’s human resources director, said at the first half-hour orientation held Thursday night, Jan. 31, during a snowstorm.
The crowd of more than 200 candidates packed the bleachers at Deer Path Middle School with three rows of chairs set up on the gym floor the length of the bleachers to accommodate the overflow.
The majority of the potential candidates arrived early for the mandatory meeting and sat quietly waiting for it to start. Saturday’s morning session was much the same: A snowstorm, slippery roads — and another 200 candidates filling the seats.
“I, personally, am honored to see this many people show up,” Lake Forest Fire Chief Jeff Howell said Thursday before addressing the white elephant in the room.
“The big question: How many people are you hiring? Well, right now, we’re not hiring anyone,” Howell said.
But it isn’t an instant job offer the group is after. The chance to get named to the city’s official eligibility list is the prize they seek.
The “list” will be set after written and oral exams are completed. Should an opening occur if someone retires, for example, the city will draw from the top of the list.
“The list lasts for two years from the date it is posted,” Kalmar said.
At the two orientation sessions, attendees received an access code required to apply online and start the process.
“Look around you at how many people are here. Don’t give that access code to someone who hasn’t bothered to come,” Kalmar said.
The application filing deadline is 11:59 p.m. on Sunday.
The next step, for those who completed the application correctly, is a written evaluation of general knowledge at 9 a.m. on Saturday, Feb. 16, also to be held at DPMS, this time in the cafeteria.
“I cannot stress this enough: Do not be late,” Kalmar said. “We will lock on the doors on you. If you show up at 9:01, you’re out of luck. It’s all part of the testing process. You can’t be late to a fire or an ambulance call.”
For candidates who get that far, there’s an oral interview, Kalmar continued, “and, finally, the creation of an eligibility list.”
To be eligible, applicants must be a U.S. citizen, have a high school diploma or equivalent, and be at least 21 years old and no more than 34 years old by April 1, about the date Kalmar said she expects the eligibility list to be available.
Maggie Kucharski of Norridge was one of only a handful of women who attended.
“This is my first chance and my last chance,” said Kucharski, who recently became a U.S. citizen and just turned 34, the maximum age to apply. “It has always been my passion to serve.”