Want to be an on-call firefighter?

Your Community Needs You!

West Sussex Fire & Rescue Service are looking for dedicated people to work as on-call firefighters across the county.


Being an on-call firefighter is an exciting and demanding role that allows people to make a positive difference to their community and help to save lives.

On-call firefighters come from all walks of life. They are men and women who are often employed elsewhere, or are at home when they receive a pager alert but are ready to spring into immediate action to deal with a 999 incident. 

Firefighters don't just fight fires – helping to prevent emergencies is an equally important part of the role and it's is not a voluntary position. On-call firefighters receive an annual retaining salary as well as additional payments for any incidents or safety events they attend.

No experience is necessary as full training is provided, but to be an on-call firefighter, you should:

  • be at least 18 years old
  • be physically fit
  • have good levels of reading and writing.

Visit our recruitment page for more information about the role or contact us to find out if there is a vacancy near you.

Case studies

Case study - Sean

Case study - Sean

Case study - Sean

Sean joined Steyning Fire Station as a retained firefighter in 2014.

“My day job doing maintenance for a residential support service for young people is Monday to Friday, so I cover evenings and weekends as a retained firefighter.

I’d be lying if I said it doesn’t have an impact on my social life. But for me, there is no doubt it’s worth it. It does mean I have to be incredibly organised and pre-arrange everything, which doesn’t always come naturally, but I wouldn’t swap it for the world.

It was a fantastic feeling to have my whole family at my pass out parade. They got to see me doing my drills and officially join the fire service. It was obvious how proud they were of me. 

One of my favourite parts of the job is getting involved in the community safety events. Recently we went to Wiston Steam Rally – it was great fun talking to families and letting the kids look around the fire engine. It’s good for people to get to know their local fire crew outside of an emergency situation.

Training to become a retained firefighter has certainly increased my self-belief. I have never been shy, but had this nagging self-doubt and fear of failing. It took me a while to build up the courage to apply to be a retained firefighter but once I did, there was no looking back. The process has taught me that if you put the time and hard work in, you can achieve anything you want.”

Case study - Laura

Case study - Laura

Case study - Laura

Laura joined Horsham Fire Station as a retained firefighter in 2015.

“I fit being a retained firefighter around my job teaching martial arts to young people. I applied because everyone I spoke to who worked for the fire service said that they absolutely loved their job. You just don’t get that anywhere else.

I found the initial training very challenging. The hose runs and ladder lifts were physically demanding and the instructors certainly didn’t go easy on me because I’m a woman. You aren’t treated any differently and I wouldn’t want to be.

Some people are shocked when I tell them that I am a firefighter, but I don’t think anyone should judge a book by its cover. You do need to be fit, but you don’t have to be a bodybuilder to do this job, I’m certainly not. In my opinion there is nothing to hold a woman back from successfully applying. I did and I absolutely love it.

Sometimes being smaller can actually have its advantages; I can get through confined spaces that some of my male colleagues can’t. Being mentally tough is just as important as being physically tough.

When my pager went off for my first call, I was incredibly nervous but also extremely excited. It gets your adrenaline pumping.

The great thing about this job is that you are never on your own or working in isolation. Everything you do, you do as a team and each team member makes up an important piece of the overall puzzle.”

Case study - Jon

Case study - Jon

Case study - Jon

Jon joined Shoreham Fire Station as a retained firefighter over 6 years ago and is now a retained Crew Manager.

“My ‘day job’ is actually a night job! I work nights as a security officer at Shoreham Airport and basically, when I am not working at the airport, I am on call for the fire service. Luckily, if I do need to take some time away, my contract gives me the flexibility to do that.

Shoreham is a variable crewing fire station, so we work alongside a small team of wholetime firefighters. It’s a very integrated station and we often get the opportunity to work together, which I enjoy.

As a retained Crew Manager, I love coaching and developing other team members, either on a one-to-one basis or as a whole crew during training sessions and weekly drill nights. We train in exactly the same core firefighting and RTC rescue skills as a wholetime crew.

You need to be both committed and flexible to be a good retained firefighter and have a very clear understanding of why you want to do the job. Yes, we do all get paid to be on call and to attend incidents, but to have real staying power in this job your motivation can’t be purely financial.

I’m passionate about working for the fire service and playing my part in making sure that Shoreham has a local fire crew always ready to respond. For me, the achievement and personal reward that comes from serving my community definitely makes it worthwhile."

Case study - Amanda

Case study - Amanda

Case study - Amanda

Amanda is currently retained at East Preston Fire Station as a Crew Manager.

“When I first applied to be a retained firefighter, I was told I was too short to join. It was a bit of a knockback but I was encouraged to stay in contact with the station, which I did. Eventually, they scrapped the national minimum height requirement and I applied again. That was eight years ago and I am a Crew Manager now.

Fitting my job around being a mum is a bit of a juggling act. Initially, I was on call when my kids were at school and I had family members helping out as well. Now they are a bit older, it’s much easier to work around them.

We have a great bunch at the station and are very supportive of each other. If we’ve had a difficult call, we all go back to the station and have a cup of tea and a chat about it. We’re good at noticing if something is bothering someone and we’re always on the other end of the phone for each other if anyone is having a problem.

It is extremely rewarding helping to protect the community I live in. I get to meet loads of different people and often bump into people I’ve helped. You may have only done something very small like fit a smoke alarm or give them a bit of safety advice, but it will have made their life better and they remember you, which is lovely.”

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