LEAGUE CITY

The newest fire academy class will be the largest in the city’s history, said Sarah Greer Osborne, spokeswoman for the city.

About 35 people will be part of the League City Volunteer Fire Department’s next academy, which tentatively begins in February, Greer Osborne said. That comes after more than 66 people filled out applications for the academy, and 40 filled out background forms and passed initial screenings.

The record class comes months after city staff stepped up recruiting efforts for the volunteer department, Greer Osborne said.

League City is one of a few cities of its size in the nation still relying almost entirely on volunteer firefighters.

Only about 1.6 percent of more than 300 fire departments in cities with more than 100,000 residents rely mostly on volunteers, according to a 2015 survey by the National Fire Protection Association.

Meanwhile, cities across the nation are having trouble attracting new firefighters, according to a 2007 report by the National Volunteer Fire Council.

The city’s population in January was just shy of 105,000, up from about 102,634 at the same time in 2017, officials said.

League City has remained steady with about 125 firefighters in recent years, despite the fact that calls for service in Galveston County’s largest city are growing at about 5 percent each year, fire officials said.

So, city staff launched a campaign to get word that they needed volunteers out to residents, who responded, Greer Osborne said.

The department’s 2019 budget is about $2.7 million. City officials previously estimated it would cost anywhere from $7 million to $10 million if it switched to an all-paid department.

Matt deGrood: 409-683-5230; matt.degrood@galvnews.com

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