BRENTWOOD -- East Contra Costa Fire District is nearly finished with hiring recruits in preparation for reopening Brentwood's downtown station May 1.

The agency has winnowed the 353 applications it received to 11, and those prospective hires currently are getting their medical exams, Chief Hugh Henderson said this week. The recruits officially become employees March 1, after which they will undergo eight weeks of training -- six weeks of it on-the-job -- before suiting up for action in May.

The 1st Street fire house is one of three that closed July 1 after voters rejected a proposed parcel tax. Fifteen firefighters lost their jobs.

The following month, East Contra Costa Fire learned that it would receive a $7.8 million federal grant to help the financially ailing district. The Knightsen station has already reopened. Bethel Island's station will remain closed.

The 11 new firefighters will bring the number of employees districtwide to 45, enough for the district's five stations to have three firefighters on each of three shifts.

What will happen once the two-year grant expires on Nov. 17, 2014, is anybody's guess.

The only certainty is that if the district doesn't have a way to replace that revenue, it will revert to the situation it was in before the windfall, Henderson said.

Meanwhile, newcomers to the nine-member fire district board are getting their sea legs. In addition to Oakley residents Kevin Bouillon and Ronald Johansen who joined in October, Brentwood representatives Greg Cooper, Joe Young and Stephen Smith stepped onto the dais in January.

One matter they will take up next month is what to do with the Byron and Discovery Bay stations the district shuttered in July 2010. At this week's meeting, board members asked Henderson to find out how much the district is spending on maintaining the two buildings and the lease and sales rates for comparable properties.

Contact Rowena Coetsee at 925-779-7141. Follow her at Twitter.com/RowenaCoetsee.