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"It's a family:" Milwaukee Fire Department welcomes 19 new firefighters

MILWAUKEE (CBS 58) -- After a budget battle that led to protests and cuts, The Milwaukee Fire Department is able to celebrate for the first time in a while. They just welcomed 19 new firefighters.

In a few weeks, the Milwaukee Fire Department will close several departments in order to balance the budget but on Wednesday, the focus was on the new recruits and their future as firefighters.

After two years together and rigorous training, the 19 firefighters will split up and go to different departments around Milwaukee.

It's bittersweet for 21-year-old Christopher Hall.

"It's been long and hard. We studied hard, worked out, built really awesome relationships with our classmates and instructors. It's a family," said Hall.

Fire Chief Mark Rohlfing called the recruits a new beginning and the future of the department. "They have a great opportunity. This is a big day so they really have a lot to be proud of."

Despite protests, the department had to close 5 fire companies and 6 firehouses due to a 9.2 million dollar budget deficit. They'll start moving equipment from the stations in a few weeks but the recruits won't be the last to get badges.

"We anticipated the cuts so we have openings. No one is laid off. The good news is we are giving a fire test soon and we will need to hire people next year so there are opportunities on the Milwaukee Fire Department."

Mayor Tom Barrett encouraged the recruits to become part of the community. 

Chief Rohlfing says the move of the departments will be complete by December 18.

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