PEORIA, Ill. (WMBD) — The Peoria Fire Department is trying to do more to recruit firefighters.

Fire Chief Shawn Sollberger said they have been struggling with recruitment for the last few years.

“I got hired 24 years ago, and when I got hired, we tested at the Peoria Civic Center. There would be anywhere from 800 to 1,000 people testing. The last two testing cycles we’ve had, we’ve garnered less than 100 just to start the process,” said Sollberger.

The fire department took to Facebook earlier today as one of its new approaches to attracting recruits.

“We had to think outside the box. We have a recruiting committee, so we’re trying to come with some social media platforms, and come up with different ideas. We’re already in the school system,” said Sollberger.

He said with testing starting in the fall, they want to spread the word as much as possible in the community.

“We’re trying to recruit the best talent in this area. We want City of Peoria residents, we want people who graduated from Peoria Public Schools, we want the ICCs and the Bradleys. We want them all,” said Sollberger.

Caleb Ham, a first-year firefighter/Paramedic, said he became a first responder to give back to the community he grew up in.

“I’ve learned a lot this first year. I’ve really felt connected to the city. I’ve lived here my whole life and this is an awesome opportunity to give back to the people I lived around all these years,” said Ham.

Sollberger said if the department receives the safer grant– a federal grant that funds the positions–they will hire 11 people immediately from their active firefighter list of 24 people.