OAKLAND, Calif. -- After camping in Frank H. Ogawa Plaza for two days, many cold and disgruntled firefighter applicants Saturday started circulating a petition calling for a fresh hiring process.
They said the Oakland Fire Department s system for scouting new recruits is unfair, as some people had been handpicked over others.
In addition, they said, the unofficial waiting lines that formed in the plaza created intense competition and overall confusion.
A lot of people were sneaking in when others were sleeping, said Noe Leon, 22, of Fremont. He slept overnight in the plaza with six friends. At 4 a.m., everyone got an urge to rush to the front.
Some people tried to defend their space with yellow caution tape, he added.
The department, which is trying to add another 20 firefighting positions to its current 450, recently waived its emergency medical technician requirement and said it would process only the first 1,000 applicants.
We are moving forward with the process, Oakland fire Lt. David Brue said.
The deadline to submit applications was noon Saturday.
A multiple-choice test will be administered next Saturday to the remaining candidates. Oral interviews will be conducted Jan. 28 to Feb. 1, and physical agility tests will be given
More than 8,000 firefighter-training applications were distributed.
Evan Rogers, 23, of San Leandro signed the petition being circulated Saturday because he said he was frustrated by the lack of organization.
People started mosh pitting, he said. This is not a rock concert.
Applicants patience began to wear thin when some people were handpicked from the crowd. Many male applicants said minority female applicants were favored.
Other applicants became upset after standing in a line for hours only to find out that theirs was not an official line.
A recording from a loudspeaker in the plaza Friday night urged applicants to go home and return at 5 a.m. Saturday, but no one wanted to lose their place in line, Leon said.
According to Brue, no official lines were established until between 6 and 7 a.m. Saturday.
In addition, the Fire Department, Police Department and Personnel Department helped secure and manage five entry points, allowing up to 20 applicants at a time into the building on a rotational basis.
The closest 20 to 30 people at those entry points were being picked, Brue said.
Some of the hopefuls camping in the plaza said they were afraid to talk to the media for fear of hurting their chances with the department during the application process.It s not fair, said one applicant, who preferred to be unnamed. All you have to be is 18 and breathing to apply, and this process is not giving the public the best.