New Class of Charlotte Firefighters To Hit The Streets

Graduations are often filled with pomp, circumstance, and meaningful traditions, and that was the case with the 86th class of Charlotte Fire recruits.

Getting to the special day means 26 weeks of classes, more than a thousand hours of instruction, and beating some long shot odds.

According to Chief Jon Hannan of the Charlotte Fire Department, everyone that applies will not make the cut.

"15 hundred people take this test. We don't advertise. They just know when to show up for the test and they come and out of those 15 hundred, we usually hire about 50," he said.

13 men make up the newest group of firefighters to hit the street, and those coming to the academy are now finding a second career.

At age 36, Marcus Haley is staring over.

" I was actually a fraud specialist for Wachovia Wells Fargo," Haley said.

He is the oldest member of the class and is choosing to answer the bell.

"Banking is more of a behind the desk type job," he said." This particular kind of job you get out in the public and work with the citizens of Charlotte."

While a changing economy is bringing candidates to the fire department from non job traditional roles, department recruiters with the city call it a double win.

Captain Sammy Jones of Charlotte Fire Department screens many of the new applicants.

"It gives us more diversity. We get people from all walks of life, all aspects of life, and it brings to the table. It helps us.

During recent months in this banking town, the Charlotte Fire Department handpicked a few of those who were let go by local financial institutions, but Marcus Haley left on his own terms to pursue a lifelong ambition.

"It's something that I always wanted to do," he said. "Even when I was a child, I had a toy fire truck."

For graduates like Haley and his classmates, it is a case of childhood dreams now turning into an adult life of public service.