Fire service information, including recruitment, safety advice and training courses.

Become a wholetime community firefighter

What's involved in becoming a wholetime community firefighter.

Last updated:
5 March 2021
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1 Application timetable

The selection process to become a wholetime community firefighter is aimed at ensuring that we recruit the right people with the right skills and attitudes. It is also designed to assess your fitness, physical and mental abilities, personal qualities and resilience.

Should you reach and pass the final stage of the selection process, subject to relevant vacancies, you may then be offered the opportunity of starting our new recruit training to become a wholetime community firefighter.

The expected recruitment timetable is:

5 March to 21 March - Stage 1: Registration and application form.

22 March to 28 March - Stage 2: Cognitive tests and personal statement:

  • Part A: Workplace safety
  • Part B: Situational judgement test
  • Part C: Cognitive assessments.

You will also be asked to complete a personal statement at this stage. Further information will be supplied to you prior to this stage.

10 May to 21 May - Stage 3: Fitness tests (you will be invited to an optional practice session prior to this stage. Further information will be emailed to you if you successfully pass stage 2).

14 June to 25 June - Stage 4: Physical role related tests (you will be invited to an optional practice session prior to this stage. Further information will be emailed to you if you successfully pass stage 3).

19 July to 30 July - Stage 5: Interview and presentation (you will be invited to an optional interview skills workshop prior to this stage. Further information will be emailed to you if you successfully pass stage 4).

From August to October - Stage 6: Medical and clearances.

2 Eligibility

After you have registered online with us, you will be asked some questions to assess your eligibility to apply. In addition, you will be asked a set of five questions and these are aimed at assessing your likely behaviour in certain situations.

In order to apply you must:

  • be 17 years and six months of age (it is a requirement to be aged 18 years or over on commencement of training, so applications will be taken as long as applicants are 18 years old once they start training)
  • be eligible to work in the UK
  • have a minimum of 5 GCSEs grade 9-4/A*-C grade or equivalent Level 2 qualifications, which must include English and Mathematics, or be a competent retained firefighter currently employed by West Sussex Fire & Rescue Service.

Once you have submitted your application, you will be notified within 48 hours if you meet the eligibility criteria and, based on your responses to the five behaviour questions, whether we are able to take your application any further.

In the event that you are able to proceed, you will receive an email inviting you to complete a personal statement and you will also receive an email from SHL informing you of how and when you can access the online assessments. Please check your inbox and junk mail for emails from SHL.

It is also desirable that applicants hold a full, valid UK driving license, unless there is a valid reason that you are unable to drive.

Proof of all eligibility requirements will be required at interview stage.

3 What is it like being a wholetime community firefighter?

The wholetime community firefighter responds to many emergency situations, including fires, road traffic collisions, chemical accidents, flooding and other natural disasters. There is a much greater emphasis on working within the community to prevent emergencies from happening in the first instance and reducing their impact when they do.

West Sussex Fire & Rescue Service is committed to meeting the needs of the diverse community that it serves. It is therefore important that you value difference and work in a way that is inclusive for all.

Firefighters spend time out in the community raising awareness of fire prevention and road safety, carrying out Safe and Well checks and engaging with a diverse range of people and local businesses.

Hours and pay

As a West Sussex wholetime community firefighter you will be working a 42-hour week across one of the following duty systems:

  • shift group crewing (12-hour shifts): 2-2-6 shift pattern (2 day shifts, 2 night shifts, 6 days off)
  • day crewing and crewing optimisation group (7-day fortnight) Monday-Friday.

The current starting salary for a trainee wholetime community firefighter is £23,833pa, rising to £31,767pa for a competent wholetime community firefighter.

Further information

4 Selection process

The selection process is competitive as we want to ensure that we recruit individuals with the right skills, attitudes and behaviour. It is designed to assess applicants’ fitness, physical and mental strengths, personal qualities and resilience against the skills and qualities for the role of a wholetime community firefighter.

Following registration and completing an application form, the selection process will involve the following stages.

Online assessments

There are three assessments to be carried out:

  1. Workplace safety assessment - a questionnaire which assesses behaviours and competencies through achievement, responsibility and safety orientation.
  2. Situational judgement - measures your judgement and decision making skills in situations that are typical in the Fire and Rescue Service. No knowledge or experience as a firefighter is required to complete this test and no prior revision is needed.
  3. Cognitive assessments - involves completing a series of tests detailed below:
    • Verbal reasoning - measures your ability to evaluate written statements, using content that makes use of workplace experiences.
    • Calculation - measures your ability to add, subtract, divide, manipulate numbers quickly and accurately.

Personal statement

You will receive an email with further information regarding completion of the personal statement once you have successfully passed the registration/application form stage.

Fitness tests

Fitness will be assessed to ensure applicants can meet the requirements of the role. 

  1. Shuttle run
    Applicants will be required to run continuously between two marked points that are 20 metres apart. The runs, or ‘shuttles’, between these points are synchronised with a pre-recorded CD which sounds bleeps at set intervals. As the interval between each successive bleep reduces, applicants will have to increase their speed between the two points. The required standard is to reach level 8.8 (VO2 42.3).

Physical role related tests

There are currently six tests that make up the National Firefighter Physical Tests. 

  1. Ladder climb
    Wearing full personal protective equipment (PPE) and a harness, candidates must ascend a 13.5m ladder, take a leg lock, lean back releasing their hands from the ladder and identify a symbol on the floor.
  2. Casualty evacuation
    Wearing full PPE, candidates must walk backwards (guided by an assessor) dragging a 55kg casualty around a 30-metre course within a given time.
  3. Ladder lift
    Wearing full PPE, candidates must lift a total load of 30kg to a height of 1.9m. This test simulates the physical demands of lifting the head of a 13.5m ladder back onto an appliance.
  4. Enclosed space
    Wearing full PPE and a breathing apparatus facemask, candidates must negotiate a crawl to a pre-defined point with clear vision. The remainder of the course must then be completed with obscured vision. Candidates must complete this exercise within a given time.
  5. Equipment assembly
    Wearing full PPE, candidates must assemble and then disassemble a piece of equipment following a set of instructions.
  6. Equipment carry
    Wearing full PPE, candidates must carry a selection of Fire & Rescue Service equipment back and forth along a 25m track within a given time.

Interview and presentation

Interviews assess applicants’ general aptitude for the role of wholetime community firefighter. The interview will consist of a prepared presentation and panel interview.

Medical assessments

Successful applicants will be required to attend a medical assessment. References and a Disclosure and Barring Service (DBS) check will also be required at this stage.

A DBS check must be obtained and paid for by applicants through the GOV.UK website once they have been informed that they have been successful. DBS checks that are obtained prior to this time may not be accepted as the service requires up to date information at the time of employment.

5 Are you suited to the role?

Being a wholetime community firefighter is challenging and can involve a number of situations not commonly found in other jobs. Take a moment to consider your answers to these questions.

Are you able and confident to:

  • work at height
  • work in enclosed spaces
  • work outdoors
  • get wet during your work
  • get hot/cold whilst working
  • carry heavy equipment
  • work unsociable hours
  • work in situations where you may see blood, seriously injured or deceased people
  • deal sensitively with people in difficult situations
  • talk to and engage with people in the local community, helping everyone from the young to the old, small businesses to major employers, to prosper in a safe and productive environment?

If you have answered 'no' to any of these, we strongly suggest you think seriously about whether being a wholetime community firefighter is right for you.

Behaviour and attitude questions

In addition, you will be asked a set of five questions which are aimed at assessing your likely behaviour and or attitude in certain situations. This is to ensure that we recruit people who are more likely to demonstrate the behaviours and values of West Sussex Fire & Rescue Service.

6 Apply to become a wholetime community firefighter

Apply for the role of a wholetime community firefighter. (external link)
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