THE Fire Services Department opened a recruitment office right next to a police recruitment centre yesterday, in a bid to attract applicants rejected by the law enforcement agency. Firemen are suffering from a shortage of manpower but hope the move will swell their ranks with youngsters who fail to make the grade in the police force. The success or failure of the new office will determine whether more are opened near other police facilities. Last year the Fire Services Department managed to recruit 54 station officers, six senior firemen, seven senior fire women and 309 firemen. But so far this year only three firemen have signed up, forcing the management to look for more novel ways to entice job seekers to apply for the 138 vacancies on offer. The newest recruitment centre on the mezzanine floor of the Middle Road multi-storey car park in Tsim Sha Tsui is only 10 metres from that of the police. ''We hope people applying to join the Police Force will take the time and apply to join us as well,'' a Fire Services Department spokesman said. The department will start recruiting women as fire fighters in April. There are six incumbent women ambulance officers and 44 senior fire women carrying out communication work at the headquarters control centre. Despite failing to attract much interest, the department is sticking to its stringent requirements that women applying for the same job as men should tip the scales at the same minimum weight of 53 kilograms and reach the same minimum height of 168 centimetres. Another ''must'' is women being able to sprint as fast as the men, to illustrate they have equal lung power without having their chests measured. And what do the police think? A recruitment officer said: ''Men and women officers are given the same jobs, but not because they are the same height and weight. ''It would be unrealistic to set the same fitness and training requirements for both sexes.'' One last consideration for a matriculant woman candidate standing between the two recruitment offices: police will pay an entry salary of $17,365 a month for an inspector. The Fire Services pay $15,100 for a station officer.