STRINGENT eyesight tests rule out 95 per cent of possible Fire Services Department recruits, but will not be dropped despite staff shortages, a Hongkong fire chief said yesterday. No one without 20/20 vision is allowed to join the department, which reduces a narrow field of applicants still further, said Mr John Tsang Kwong-yu, Headquarters Chief Fire Officer. Next month the department will start to enrol women and it is hoped this will ease the recruitment drought, but Mr Tsang has added his voice to demands for fire station officers to be paid the same starting salary as their colleagues in the police force. Last night a spokesman for the Civil Service Branch said there were no plans to reconsider station officer pay and the fire service was being encouraged to boost its recruitment by increasing publicity and streamlining its procedures. Opening the second fire service recruitment centre in Middle Road car park, Tsim Sha Tsui, Mr Tsang said: ''If you look at the graduates from secondary school and above, 95 per cent of them wear glasses, but station officers are not allowed to wear glasses. This narrows our pool of candidates to a very small percentage and all of the disciplinary services will be trying to get people from that small pool.'' Mr Tsang said there were no plans to relax the 20/20 vision requirement. Health Department doctors have advised the department that if someone wears glasses at the time of recruitment there is a high chance they may have to be invalidated out of the service with more severe sight difficulties later. It is hoped recruitment problems will be eased by the decision to allow women to apply to become firefighters, Mr Tsang said. The Fire Services Department wants to appoint 69 new station officers this year. Last year 423 men applied for the position, and although 91 jobs needed to be filled, only 54 were deemed suitable for appointment. By last week 72 people had applied to be a station officer this year and 17 had been appointed. In 1992, one in eight applicants were appointed station officer - so far this year the success rate had been about one in four. Mr Tsang said pay remained another barrier to recruitment and said the department had made a submission to the Civil Service Branch and the Standing Committee on Disciplined Services Salaries and Conditions of Service calling for a review. ''There is nothing the Fire Service Department can do in regard to pay, though we consider the starting pay for station officers requires some sort of adjustment in that we suffer from difficult recruitment and retention problems,'' he said. ''We consider that the starting pay of station officers should be adjusted to the starting point of the police.'' He denied that any sub-standard personnel had been promoted to station officer to ease the vacancy situation.