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1,000 Hopefuls Vie for 100 Jobs as Paramedics

Times Staff Writer

More than a thousand would-be paramedics converged Saturday on City Hall, applying for an estimated 100 positions to be filled by the Los Angeles Fire Department in the next two years.

At 8 a.m., a line of applicants stretched more than a block around Los Angeles City Hall South. Some had arrived hours earlier to make certain that they wouldn’t miss a chance to apply.

“There’s always a lot of interest in this job,” said Dennis Lynch, assistant division chief of the city Personnel Department’s police and fire selection division. “We anticipate 1,500 to 2,000 applications today.”

Lynch anticipates about 4,000 people will take advantage of the application period, which began Saturday and will last one week. He estimates that the odds are about 1 in 20 that an individual applicant will win one of the starting paramedic jobs, which after a training period pay $2,721 a month.

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Competition didn’t discourage LaQuenta Hendrix, 20, a member of an Explorer Scout group at Fire Station 66 in the Crenshaw district, where she lives with her parents and her 14-year-old brother and 10-year-old sister. She is a fire science major at El Camino College.

“Paramedics are needed,” she said. “I think it’s good that a lot of people have come out to take the test and really try to help.”

Emilio Flores, 20, a Compton resident who is studying at Cerritos College to become a teacher, was similarly determined to buck the odds.

“I thought I could help somebody,” Flores said. “I love helping people and, after all, it is a good-paying job.”

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‘Want to Be Involved’

Joanie Garratt drove from her Marina del Rey home and then roller skated the last two miles to the Civic Center to turn in her application. The 35-year-old blonde said she has taught political science at the university level, but she is now considering a public safety job as a paramedic.

“I want to be involved because I want to help people,” she said.

The recruiting drive is a byproduct of an effort to improve the city’s emergency medical service system after a critical audit of the Fire Department by a city administrative office team last year.

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The report cited unacceptably slow response times in hundreds of heart attack cases and called for reducing the workload on overburdened paramedics, a source of bitter controversy between the Fire Department and the 421-member United Paramedics of Los Angeles.

The City Council subsequently backed the addition of several rescue ambulances and the hiring of more paramedics.

The Fire Department then set out to hire more paramedics. To recruit, the city advertised extensively, particularly in publications reaching women and minorities, according to Lynch.

Mix of Applicants

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“It looks like the affirmative action word got out this time,” he said Saturday, expressing satisfaction with the mix of those standing in line.

To apply to become a paramedic, an applicant must be at least 18 years old, have a high school diploma or a certificate of equivalency and be in “excellent” physical health. No experience is necessary.


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