For the first time, women will be hired as San Francisco firefighters. The end of a historic all-male barrier in the Fire Department follows U.S. District Judge Marilyn Hall Patel's decision in a case handled by City Atty. Louise Renne. An estimated 11 women are expected to join the department from the next two classes of candidates, Renne said. The five-year legal battle to break down the gender barrier froze all new hires, leaving the department short-handed by more than 150 firefighters. The two classes, totaling 48 people, should start training in July with the first women in stations as early as August or September, Fire Chief Ed Phipps said. The city is obligated to come up with new nondiscriminatory testing procedures as part of the settlement.