LOS ANGELES (CBSLA.com) — Thousands of applicants are expected to compete for hundreds of positions at the Los Angeles Fire Department after a three-year hiring freeze.

KNX 1070’s Pete Demetriou reports the move is aimed at reducing costs on overtime pay in the wake of recent staffing cuts.

City budget cuts led to a department-wide halt to hiring in 2009, but that will soon change now that the department downsized to just under 3,340 employees and has lost more than 100 additional workers every year due to attrition and retirements.

Pat McOsker, President of the United Firefighters of Los Angeles, said paying overtime to cover shortfalls is now more costly that hiring new firefighters.

“We went through a time when there was no need to hire because they downsized the fire department,” McOsker said. “Now because of retirement and disability pensions, we’re getting to the tipping point again where they will start hiring again.”

The Department has already received 4,500 notices of interest from prospective firefighter candidates to fill a projected 300 positions over the next two years.

But McOsker expects the number of applicants to surge as the economy continues to signal a tepid recovery from the 2008 recession.

“In this economy of course the jobs are so scarce, so many young people have that desire to help, to be a firefighter, I think you’ll see thousands of them come out of the woodwork,” McOsker said.

The Department’s first wave of permanent hires will likely be in the field sometime in late 2013.

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