Eight women failed a grueling physical test for prospective firefighters in Alexandria yesterday, ending their bids to become the first women on the city's firefighting force.

"They did well," said Alexandria Personnel Director Robert Burnett. "We were particularly disappointed because some of the ladies were able to complete all the elements. But they weren't able to put together all of the elements today yesterday ."

Twenty-four qualified for the physical tests by passing written exams, but only eight showed up for the physical tests, Burnett said.

Those women had trained for the past few weeks for the taxing physical course, which measures strength and endurance.

Burnett said the city needs to fill 12 openings in its firefighting crew.

Women had applied before for fire department posts, but never in the numbers that turned out this year, Burnett said.

"Past participation has been spotty at best and you can't build physical strength unless you have consistent training," he said.

"We were down about" the failure of any women to pass, said Burnett, whose staff had watched the progress of the women in training with high expectations.

"A couple indicated they were willing to hang in there and try again," he said. Three of the women completed all the parts before failing on the 100-pound grip test.

Of the 133 men who took the exam, 46 made the final cut.

Those men will go through more rounds of tests, including a background check, before the final choices are made.

Among the events in the test are a 1 1/2-mile run that must be completed in 15 minutes, chinups and an extension ladder climb.