The field of candidates to be named the next deputy fire chief has been narrowed to three, none of them members of the Fairfield Fire Department.

The Fire Commission on Thursday got an update on the hiring process from Fiscal Officer Robert Mayer and Bridgeport Fire Chief Brian Rooney, who served on the testing committee.

The position is open because the Fire Commission in March opted not to renew Deputy Fire Chief Art Reid's contract past its expiration in December. One of the reasons stated by the commissioners when that decision was made was to open up opportunities for promotion within the department, but apparently none of local firefighters who met the deputy chief qualifications applied for the job.

The commission will also have to go through this process again very soon, because Fire Chief Richard Felner is retiring when his contract expires at the end of June.

Mayer told the commission on Jan. 8 that about 40-plus resumes were received for the job, with applicants from Connecticut, New York, Pennsylvania, New Jersey, Massachusetts and even as far away as Phoenix, Ariz. "There were some very excellent candidates," he said.

The resumes were reviewed and graded by Mayer, Felner, the town's Human Resources Department and an outside consultant, which cut that list down to five candidates. Those five then went through a two-day assessment process. The three remaining candidates are from Stamford, Yonkers, N.Y., and Braintree, Mass.

"It was an eye opener," Rooney said. "It was a very thorough examination."

Candidates had to write about the top three priorities they would bring to the department, and then make an oral presentation and explain why they wanted to be deputy chief. They also had to participate in a group activity session, dealing with problems that could arise. "One of the goals was to make sure we have a deputy chief that's going to support the fire chief," Rooney said. "You don't want them to be too powerful or a `yes' person."

Rooney said he thinks the first two candidates would be able to do the job "without any problems ... The top two were pretty close, the third was a little further away."

Mayer said officials are conducting background checks and psychological evaluations on the three candidates, which should be completed in a week. The commission will now prepare questions and conduct interviews with all three prior to making a recommendation to the first selectman.

The selection process, Mayer said, has cost the town about $12,000.