RALEIGH, N.C. (WNCN) — The Raleigh Fire Department says their staffing has grown significantly since last summer, when they were facing their largest firefighter shortage in 25 years.

Part of it is because of their lateral transfer program, where firefighters with three types of certification and two years of continuous experience as a paid firefighter could get on the truck faster.

“It allowed us to bolster staffing just very much quicker than we could typically do in the past,” said Ian Toms, Raleigh Fire Department Assistant Chief for Professional Development.

(Chloe Rafferty/CBS 17)

Now, the focus is on maintaining their employees.

To do that, they’re holding information sessions to prepare applicants for the job.

“Everybody sort of has a general idea of what a firefighter does, but we do find that as individuals come in, there’s a slight disconnect sometimes in what they think we do and what we actually do,” Toms said.

The goal is to get applicants familiar with things like the logistics of the job, burn training and a confined space maze.

“The confined spaces is pretty tough to look at,” said Frank Reali, who attended Friday’s information session. “They showed us how to go into it, you’ll do it outside in the dark, inside in the dark, and it’s something that’s very challenging.”

Reali, whose family members are firefighters as well, told CBS 17 he’s excited to apply.

“If you like a challenge, if you like stepping out of your comfort zone and helping people and helping the community, I think this is the place to be,” he said.

It helped the session’s purpose become a reality, officials said.

“They actually come in knowing, ‘This is what I want to do. I understand it. And I’ve got it, I’ve figured it out and I’m going to stay,’” Toms said.

The Raleigh Fire Department is holding two other information sessions on July 13 and Sept. 28.

Applications are scheduled to be open from Oct. 1 to Oct. 31, and the six-month paid academy training is set to begin in March 2024.

Click here for more information or to register for an information session.