Changes in Firefighter Hiring Requirements and Procedures

The City generally recruits for firefighters every two years. The recruitment process culminates in the creation of a rank-order eligibility list from which candidates are hired as vacancies occur within the relevant two year period. Effective in 2011, the Illinois Firefighter Hiring Act (P.A. 97-0251 (H.B. 1576)) created substantial changes to the way new full-time firefighters are hired. The new law provides for options in hiring new firefighters, as well as imposes new requirements on Boards of Commissioners which required the City to review and revise firefighter hiring practices. Notably, the law specifies minimum and maximum age requirements, requires certain testing components (such as a written exam, physical abilities exam and preference points for military veterans) and specifies passing score requirements for written exams. The law also restricts flexibility in choosing among qualified individuals on a hiring eligibility list. The law requires selection of the top candidate on the eligibility list, with some provision for passing that candidate in favor of another in the top 5% that more closely meets the qualifications for the position (Champaign’s existing process allowed for a maximum of 100 candidates on an eligibility list, and further allowed the Fire Chief to select from the top 30 candidates).

The City of Champaign Fire Department and Human Resources Department developed recommendations for changes to City firefighter hiring practices, in consideration of the new law. The Board of Fire and Police Commissioners reviewed and approved recommended changes in July 2012.