Six years after he took the firefighter test with thousands of other hopeful applicants at the Minneapolis Convention Center, Mark Kos got word last fall that he was in: the Minneapolis Fire Department wanted to hire him, along with eight others from the testing class of 2006.

Not only had the small group beaten out all the others, they outlasted a five-year delay in hiring brought on by the recession and tight city budgets.

On Friday, at the Fire Museum on 22nd Avenue NE., Kos and the others gratefully accepted their new jobs in a formal ceremony with Fire Chief John Fruetel.

At 52, Kos could be the oldest firefighter ever hired by the Minneapolis Fire Department. A boulder of a man who looks like he could knock down locked doors one-handed, Kos has spent two decades working with students at Marcy Open School in Minneapolis.

Chief Fruetel said Kos is typical of this class, which is a bit older than most. Many of them also bring experiences from other successful careers that they left to become firefighters.

Considering the years that have passed since the new hires — all men — were first interviewed by the department, Chief Fruetel looked relieved Friday to finally be adding fresh blood to the ranks: "It's exciting as hell," he said.

Matt McKinney