PEORIA, Ill. (WMBD) — Peoria Fire Department is gearing up for fall recruitment by thinking outside the box to attract talent.

Interim Fire Chief Shawn Sollberger said recruitment numbers have been down for a while.

“What we’re used to is hundreds of people wanting to be a firefighter, and now we’re running into dozens of people wanting to be firefighter,” he said. “We’re actually cautiously optimistic to be honest with you, and we’ve done a lot of recruiting efforts with our recruiting team.”

In an effort to reach a wider audience, Sollberger said they are using new recruitment tactics, like the City of Peoria Career Fair this fall.

“It would be a unique and just really trying to get focused on people wanting to be employees for the City of Peoria,” he said.

Another method is using social media.

“So what we’re trying to do is think outside of the box. Get onto social platforms. Get our QR codes out there in the right places. We’re working on a two to three-minute recruitment video… So just moving in the right direction, getting our good information out to the people and explaining to them the value of being a public servant and being a professional firefighter and just really kind of staying true to that,” he said.

Josh Martin, president of Peoria Firefighters Local 50, said they offer a Fire Explorers program for ages 16 to 21.

“You can come out, get your hands dirty and learn how to put out a house fire. You can learn how to put out a car fire, vehicle extrication. We bring kids in out of high school and we teach them how to do some of the basics and hope that down the road they’ll want to apply for the fire department,” he said.

Martin said the union provides job security, high wages and great benefits.

“We do get paid well because we risk a lot… Being part of a union is one of the best things I’ve ever done. It’s a brotherhood. I have 160 brothers, we all have each other’s back,” he said.

Applicants must be between the ages of 21 and 34, have a high school diploma or GED, and be a U.S. citizen. They also have to pass a physical agility test and an optional written test. Firefighters must reside in Peoria for at least 10 years, but do not have to be residents to apply.

“I think it’s an extremely rewarding profession. You have the ability to make a positive impact in someone’s day every single day,” said Sollberger.

Sollberger said they are still fleshing out details for the career fair. It will be held at the Peoria Civic Center or Bradley University.