Passaic County Fire Academy welcomed the largest and most diverse class of recruits on Monday.
The 47 trainees, who will be ready to fight fires by March, hail mostly from Paterson and Passaic - and that's no accident.
Paterson's 34 recruits who walked into the fire academy in Wayne, were found by a specially created committee that helped its Fire Department scour the city for eligible individuals.
"We aggressively recruited," Paterson Fire Chief Brian McDermott said. "We went to schools, libraries, religious houses, street corners."
The committee found 1,000 Paterson residents to take the qualification test. The list was narrowed down to 150 candidates who took a competitive physical test which further narrowed the list down to the 34 — 17 of them Latinos and two women, the chief said.
"Look at this class," Paterson Mayor Andre Sayegh said to the recruits, their family and friends at Monday's welcome ceremony. "This is what America looks like."