Forty-nine Los Angeles Fire Department recruits graduated Thursday, four weeks earlier than scheduled, to join on the front lines against the COVID-19 pandemic.

The class of 44 men and five women is set to start work at their fire stations on Sunday, according to Peter Sanders, public information director for the Los Angeles Fire Department.

The department accelerated the class timeline as preparation for a potential surge of COVID-19 patients in the next few weeks, Sanders said. The department also wanted to be prepared if there is a significant increase in LAFD members contracting the virus.

The department reported Thursday that 15 members had tested positive for COVID-19. Five have recovered and returned to work, and one is hospitalized, according to Jessica Kellogg, public information officer for the Emergency Operation Center.

LAFD Chief Ralph Terrazas presided over the graduation ceremony at the department’s Panorama City training facility.

“The LAFD is taking every step necessary to ensure that we fulfill our mission of protecting life and property in Los Angeles during the COVID pandemic and I am proud of the 49 recruits who officially joined our ranks today,” Terrazas said.

“The recruits completed their training in the midst of extraordinary circumstances and I am excited to have them join us on the front lines as we work together to mitigate the spread of the COVID virus.”

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