"My dad's a firefighter. Every day he goes to work, he loves it and that's what I want to do," applicant Chris Marchisio said.
The last time the department had a recruitment drive was back in 2001. Now, with baby boomers retiring, 250 to 350 new hires will be needed in the next few years.
Even though San Francisco, like other cities is facing tough fiscal times, Chief Joanne Hayes-White says the front line is no place to cut.
"We've been asked to reduce our operational budget this year by $3.6 million," Hayes-White said. "We're confident we'll be able to meet goals the mayor wants us to meet through a variety of different solutions but the last thing you want to do is cut resources out in the field."
Wednesday alone, 4,000 people picked up applications, which must be done in person. If you can't come in, a friend can do it for you.
The firefighters union placed ads in the San Francisco chronicle and community newspapers to go beyond the department's recruiting efforts.
"its just an effort to get the word out to everyone, that's what we felt needed to happen from every walk of life, every community," firefighter Floyd Rollins said.
Applicant Mary Cunnie says she wants to serve society.
"The whole corporate world seems kind of secondary to me to helping other people," Cunnie said.
Starting pay for beginning firefighters is just over $68,000. Applicants must be at least 19 years old, have a high school diploma or GED and a valid driver's license.
Applicants don't have to live in the city. The chief expects at least 10,000 candidates. A written exam will take place this spring.