Becoming a wholetime firefighter

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Thanks for visiting wholetime recruitment page. We hope that this information will give you a flavour of the roles and career opportunities in the modern fire service and encourage you to consider a career with us. We are committed to developing a workforce which better reflects the communities we serve.  We actively encourage interest from all sections of the community and especially welcome applications from women, and members of black and minority ethnic groups who are currently under-represented in our service.

So what is involved in being a firefighter

We don’t just fight fires – we:

  • rescue people and animals involved in a wide variety of situations 
  • respond to threats of flooding helping people to safety
  • provide emergency medical care at incident and fire grounds
  • work with the police in a wide variety of situations 
  • educate people on how to prevent fires and how to protect themselves in their homes
  • work with businesses to ensure that premises are safe for those working and visiting them 
  • work with schools to raise awareness of fire and road safety
  • act as positive role models taking part in educational schemes like the Prince’s Trust and the Duke of Edinburgh Award Scheme

Firefighters do require a certain level of physical fitness, which is tested during the selection process and must be maintained throughout their career.  

Opportunities for Specialisation

There are opportunities for specialisation within the service.  This includes:

  • training instructors 
  • search and rescue 
  • responding to major flooding/tidal surges 
  • fire investigation [to find the source of the fire and if arson was involved]
  • technical and policy support

Career Development

All our operational senior managers started their careers as firefighters.  Pay rises in line with experience and responsibility. 

As a trainee firefighter you start out on £22,459 rising to £23,394 on completion of your initial 12 weeks course.  This rises to £29,934 once you are fully competent [can be a soon as two years – depends on you].

There are a number of management opportunities within the service – with salaries rising with responsibility:

Management Structure

  • Crew Managers up to £33,187
  • Watch Managers up to £37,112
  • Station Managers up to £42,576
  • Group Managers up to £49,284
  • Area Managers up to £57,252
  • Deputy Chief Fire Officer circa £95,000
  • Chief Fire Officer up to  £120,000  

Next Steps

When we are in a position to run a recruitment campaign, we will advertise here, in the local media and on Facebook and Twitter.  

In the run up to our recruitment campaigns we will advertise a series of ‘Have a Go Events.  These ½ day sessions will give you the opportunity to come to one of our stations and see what the physical and written tests involve.  

Our firefighters will be there to talk about what is involved. Our fitness instructor will be available to suggest how you can improve your fitness to the required level if necessary.  We will have a mix of weekend and evening events.    

Please watch out on our websiteFacebook and Twitter and local media for details of how to reserve your place on one of the Have a Go Events. 

The Firefighter Selection Process

The firefighter selection process is the same for all applicants regardless of whether you want to be a retained or wholetime firefighter.  Applicants are required to pass all stages of the process to be considered for a place on the recruit’s course.  There are five stages as described below.


When you apply to join us as a firefighter, you will be asked to complete an application form.

The application form is in two parts.  In the first part we ask you for your personal details; in the second part we ask you to tell us about your skills and experience in relation to the personal qualities and attributes described in the section above.  Applicants for the retained duty system won’t be asked to complete part two until after the written and physical tests.

In part two of the form, you will be asked to describe specific situations where you have demonstrated the particular behaviour or personal quality which is being assessed.  You will need to write a short paragraph for each, describing what you did, why you did it and what happened as a result.  Full details and further guidance is set out in the form.

If you are shortlisted for the next stage of the process, you will be invited to take a range of written and physical tests.

There are four written tests which are designed to assess your ability and aptitude for becoming a firefighter.

Working with numbers

This test assesses your ability to understand and work with numerical information of the type you are likely to experience as a firefighter.  For example, you have to be able to complete basic numerical calculations to work out how much hose is needed at a fire and understand simple graphs, tables, dials and gauges.

The test consists of a number of scenarios that present numerical information in a variety of formats.  Each scenario is followed by a number of multiple choice questions and you must use the information given in the scenario to answer the questions that follow.

Situational awareness and problem solving

This test is designed to look at your ability to ensure the safety of yourself and others and your ability to use information to solve problems. The test consists of a number of scenarios. For each scenario you are asked to choose which answer from four alternatives best describes what you would do in this situation.

Understanding information

This test assesses your ability to read and understand written information of the type you are likely to experience as a firefighter, for example fire safety information, training course materials, service orders and instructions etc. The test consists of a number of scenarios that present information in a variety of formats such as memos, newsletters and training manual excerpts followed by a set of multiple choice questions.  You must use the information given in the scenario to select the correct answer.

National firefighter questionnaire

This questionnaire is designed to provide information about your personal style and behaviour.  Your responses to the questionnaire will be considered alongside other information from the selection process to help us decide if you are suited to becoming a firefighter.  The questionnaire consists of a number of statements together with a rating scale.  You are asked to decide how strongly you agree or disagree with each statement.

You will be required to undertake a range of physical tests to assess your fitness, strength and confidence in relation to the firefighter role. The tests simulate some of the situations you may face as a Firefighter - click on the links below to watch a video demonstration of each test.

During the physical tests you will be wearing full personal protective equipment (PPE).

During the enclosed space test, you will also be wearing a breathing apparatus (BA) facemask, which will be obscured, and a BA cylinder.

You should have a good general level of fitness before you undertake the physical tests.  For guidance on fitness levels and the firefit 12 week programme to prepare you for the tests, please read Guidance on Physical Training Preparation for the national Firefighter Selection Tests.

If you are successful in the written and physical tests, you will be invited to attend an interview.  The main purpose of the interview is to assess your general aptitude for the job and to gather examples of when and how you have used skills that are important for potential firefighters.  There are five areas that will be assessed:-

  • Working with others – this is about working effectively with a variety of people whether they are in your team or in the community
  • Commitment to excellence – this is about adopting a conscientious and proactive approach to work and achieving and maintaining excellent standards
  • Commitment to development – this is about being committed to develop yourself and others
  • Commitment to diversity and integrity – this is about understanding and respecting other people’s difference and treating people fairly and ethically
  • Communicating effectively – this is about how effectively you verbally deliver information, make yourself understood and how you understand information

If you are invited for interview, you will be given guidance on how to prepare and examples of the sort of questions that you might be asked.

The final stage of the selection process is the medical and fitness assessment.  Candidates are required to attend an appointment with our occupational health advisers who will test your hearing, eyesight, BMI, blood pressure, lung function, urine and immunisation status and undertake a full clinical assessment.  You will also undertake a fitness assessment with our physical fitness adviser who will check your aerobic capacity, grip strength and leg and back strength.

What educational qualifications do I need?

The role of firefighter is becoming increasingly technical with the need to absorb and retain complex information.  In addition a number of the firefighters we recruit to-day will become our future managers.  Therefore you will need a minimum of 5 GCSE Grade A to C including English and Maths or a recognised equivalent.

Are there career prospects?

Most certainly – as your career progresses there will be opportunities for development, specialisation and promotion.  All our operational senior managers started their career as a firefighter.

I am a person of faith and will wish to pray at different periods during the day and early in the morning

We will make every effort to provide a private place for you to pray.  However, there will be times when you are involved in a rescue or other activity that will mean you may need to defer your prayers until the incident is finished.

I am worried about having to share facilities with firefighters of the opposite sex

Not a problem - all our stations have separate facilities for our female and male firefighters.

How will I know when you are recruiting wholetime firefighters?

We advertise on local media and social networks as well as posting it to our website.

How do I apply?

All applications should be made online via our website.

Do I need to live in Norfolk to apply?

No – however we do not pay relocation costs.

Do I need to be able to swim?

Ideally yes.   We are often involved in water rescue and helping people leave their homes in the event of flooding therefore you need to be confident in water to ensure your safety and the safety of others.   You need to be able to swim 50 metres to ensure your own safety and the safety of others.

Do I need to be a British citizen to apply?

No you can be any nationality as long as you have permanent unrestricted right to live and work in the UK.  All candidates are required by law to provide evidence of their legal right to work in the UK.

Do I need a drivers licence?

It would certainly help.  You will be required to work in a number of different stations across Norfolk – some of which are not accessible by public transport.  You may also choose to become a LGV driver to drive our appliances.

Is there an age restriction?

You need to be 18 years of age or older at the start of the initial recruitment course.  While there is no upper age, limit normal pension age for firefighters is 60.

Is there a height limit?

There is no minimum or maximum height – our firefighters come in all sizes.

Do I have to be fit to apply?

You will need to be fit and maintain your level of fitness throughout your career as a firefighter.  As part of the recruitment process you will undertake a number of physical tests.  In addition you will need to pass a fitness test to determine your aerobic capacity.

I have a beard for religious reasons – will I have to shave this off in order to be a firefighter?

Unfortunately, yes.  The service respects your religious needs however as a firefighter you will be required to wear a facemask when you are wearing breathing apparatus.  To ensure that the facemask forms a seal around the face, it is necessary to keep the face clean shaven to prevent any dangerous airborne chemicals entering the facemask.  The fire service is working closely with the manufacturers of the equipment to look for new ways of overcoming the issues with facial hair.

Will I need to work shifts?

Yes  - most  firefighters work a four day rota – two day shifts, two night shifts followed by four days off.  We also operate a day duty system.  The good news is that you will know what shifts you are working a year in advance.

Will I get preference because I’ve served in the military?

No – every applicant is treated on their merit.

I have a disability – can I still become a firefighter?

Under the Equality Act 2010 a disability is defined as:  "Anyone who has a physical or mental impairment which has a substantial and long term adverse effect on her/his ability to carry out normal day-to-day activities."  We ask all candidates if they need adjustments to be made as part of the recruitment process and to enable them to be fulfil the role of firefighter.  Each case will be considered on an individual basis.  We need to consider with you whether a reasonable adjustment can be made to enable you to undertake the role of firefighter.

I have a criminal record – can I still apply to be a firefighter?

It depends.  If you have unspent criminal convictions you will have to declare them as part of the application stage.  You will be subject to the Rehabilitation of Offenders Act which you will need to read as each offence will be different.  Before an offer of employment is made a disclosure document may be obtained.  If at this stage a conviction is highlighted that you have not declared your application will be withdrawn from the recruitment process.

Can I apply if I wear glasses?

As long as your eye sight meets the required standard glasses are not a bar to applying.  If you are unsure if your eyesight meets the required standards you are strongly advised to seek advice from your optician before applying.

So what are the eye sight standards?

  • Uncorrected distance vision no worse than 6/18 in the better eye, and 6/24 in the worse eye
  • Have corrected distance visual of at least 6/9 with both eyes open and reach 6/12 in the weaker eye
  •  Near vision – should be able to read N12 at 30 cm with both eyes open unaided
  • Soft contact lenses (SCL) considered safe (minimum monthly replacement)
  • Have normal binocular field of vision
  • Have a binocular visual field extending 120º along the horizontal and no points missed within the central 20º visual field as assessed using the Binocular Esterman test
  • Have no history of night blindness or any ocular disease that is likely to progress and result in future failure of the visual standards for fire-fighters
  • Have an appropriate level of colour perception. Individuals with either normal colour vision or slightly abnormal green colour vision are suitable for appointment to the fire service. The recommended test procedure uses the Ishihara test as the initial screen, with two additional tests if the applicant fails the screening, to determine the severity and type of colour vision deficiency.
  • Applicants who have undergone refractive surgery must wait 12 months following surgery before applying and must undergo additional assessment. Radial keratotomy (RK) is not accepted (but procedure of PRK, LASIK, and LASEX should be allowed)

If I am unsuccessful at any stage of the process can I re-sit?

You need to successful at each stage to progress to the next.  However this does not mean that you can’t apply again when we are next recruiting.

What if I can’t make an assessment date or the training course date?

The dates of the assessments and the training course have been set and agreed at the beginning of the recruitment process as they are very labour intensive and take huge amounts of planning.  If you are unable to make any of the dates you will not be able to continue with the recruitment process on this occasion.

What happens if I forget to attend a recruitment event or arrive late at any of the assessments?

Your application will immediately be withdrawn from the recruitment process.

I recently passed the National Firefighter Selection Process with a different Fire and Rescue Service and I am on their holding list.  Do I still need to apply and go through your recruitment process?

Yes – our processes and requirements may differ from those within other Brigades.  In the interests of fairness it is vital that all candidates are assessed in the same way.

What if I have dyslexia?

You will need to identify this on your application form and should you be shortlisted for the next stage you will need to submit an assessment report from an appropriately qualified health or education professional.  This assessment report will help us identify how best to support you, not only at selection stage but potentially throughout your Fire Service career.

What if I have asthma?

Asthma does not necessarily prevent you from becoming a firefighter.  Firefighters are exposed to smoke and other toxicants as part of their job.  These can exacerbate the symptoms of wheezing.  Your condition will be assessed at the medical stage by our Occupational Health Specialists after which a decision will be made if it is safe for you to become a firefighter.

On completion of my initial training which station will I be based at?

You could be posted to any wholetime or day-crewed station in the County.  This will depend on the operational needs of the Service at the time.

Will I have to pay for my uniform?

No - uniforms are provided free of charge including any Personal Protective Equipment [PPE].

How much will I get paid during my initial training course?

You will be paid £22,237 which is the current rate for trainee firefighters.  Once you have completed the course this increases to £23,162 while you are in development.  Once you are fully competent this increases to £29,638.

What do I have to do to become competent?

In order to achieve competence as a firefighter you have to pass several written and practical competency assessments.

How much annual leave would I get?

Wholetime firefighters are entitled to 28 days annual leave – this entitlement increases with length of service and promotion to a more senior role.

What happens if I am injured or become ill while I am on my initial 12 week training course?

We will make every effort to treat any injuries while you on the course.  However, if a more serious injury or illness prevents your attendance you will be withdrawn from the course.  We would in this case offer you the opportunity to attend future training courses subject to your being medically fit to do so.

Are tattoos acceptable?

Tattoos which are offensive, discriminatory or intimidating are not acceptable. This is irrespective of where the tattoo appears on your body.

What about body piercings?

For health and safety reasons all body piercings must be removed while on duty.  This includes earrings.

What does the medical examination involve?

All examinations will be carried out by our occupational health specialists.  You will be expected to provide a urine sample under controlled conditions. You will also be required to undertake the following investigations:

  • Height and weight
  • Blood pressure/pulse
  • Urinalysis
  • Spirometry (lung function test)
  • Audiology (hearing test)
  • Eyesight test
  • Palpation of the abdomen
  • Testing of the reflexes
  • Grip strength
  • MSK movement
  • Cognitive understanding
  • Chest and heart sounds check
  • General health questionnaire

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