The 23 recruits who graduated Friday from the Lexington Division of Fire's training academy will help alleviate the city's firefighter shortage.
With these graduates, the city will have 500 firefighters, 35 less than the authorized strength, said Fire Battalion Chief Ed Davis, spokesman for the fire department. The recruit class is the first since November of 2010, and the first to go through a training program that has been shortened by about four weeks.
In January, a record number of firefighters retired, leaving the department short-staffed, officials have said. Training was shortened from 22 weeks to about 18 weeks to get boots on the ground faster.
"They had to go through and learn as much as everybody else did in far fewer weeks," Lt. Douglas Hurt said. "They came together very early. They understood the brotherhood very quickly."
The newest firefighters are on probation for one year during which they will continue to be trained and tested, Davis said. At the end of that period, they must pass a final exam.
Another class of 17 recruits is expected in mid-October, and another 28 in February or March of 2013. About 18 to 20 firefighters will be lost through retirements in January.