Four jobs. More than 400 applicants.

That was the outpouring of firefighter candidates who responded to the first round of the Fairfield Fire Department's process of filling a handful of openings in the ranks of Fairfield's Bravest.

The turnout -- 411 men and women -- was so large for the Dec. 6 firefighter exam that the army of applicants had to be split between the cafeterias of Fairfield Ludlowe High School and Roger Ludlowe Middle School.

"It's the largest [turnout] I've seen since I became chief," said Fire Chief Richard Felner.

Only the cream of the crop will be chosen, since only four rookie firefighters -- and perhaps as few as two -- will be hired. The exact number of positions, Felner said, will be determined based on availability of training slots at the Connecticut State Fire Academy in Windsor Locks.

The written exam, which takes approximately three hours, was conducted by Jacques Personnel out of Warren, N.H. Military veterans who have served on active duty will be awarded five points, according to Felner. The Dec. 6 testing also included a 45-minute mechanical aptitude test.

"We're extremely pleased with the turnout," said Deputy Fire Chief Arthur Reid. "We hope to have a great pool of candidates from this process."

The Fire Department may call upon on the top 50 from the exam results, or the top 100, depending on their scores, to return for an oral review board. That is the next step in the process, which also includes a background check and a psychological exam.

Assistant Fire Chief Christopher Tracy, like Felner and Reid, was also pleased the written exam attracted such a large pool of applicants.

"At any time this is a great opportunity for young men and women to begin a life in public service," he said, "but especially in these economic times, the chance to become a firefighter is being sought by our best and our brightest."

The Fairfield Fire Department requires men and women to have passed the state's Candidate Physical Ability Test, be at least 21 years old and attain EMT certification by the date of hire.