Become a wholetime community firefighter

What's involved in becoming a wholetime community firefighter.

1 Application timetable

The selection process to become a wholetime community firefighter is lengthy and highly competitive. It is designed to assess your fitness, physical and mental strengths, personal qualities and resilience against the skills and qualities we are seeking in the role.

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

The expected timetable is:

  • 1 May-30 May: Register your interest
  • 5 June-24 June: Online testing, including behavioural questionnaire, situational judgement and ability tests
  • 23 July-27 July: Fitness tests
  • 6 August-10 August: Physical role-related tests
  • 13 August-26 August: Personal statement submission
  • 17 September-3 October: Interviews and presentation
  • 22 October-16 November: Medical assessments (final stage of the assessment process).

2 Eligibility

Following an online registration with us, you will be asked some basic questions to assess your eligibility to apply. As part of the assessment, 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)
  • live in West Sussex, East Sussex or Surrey at the time of application
  • be eligible to work in the UK
  • have a minimum of 5 GCSEs 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 and Rescue Service.

You will be then be advised whether you are eligible to continue your application.

If successful, you will receive an email informing you of how and when you can access the online assessments. Please check your inbox and junk mail for emails from Apollo Online Assessment.

It is also desirable that applicants hold a full, valid UK driving licence 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. Now, however, there is a much greater emphasis on working within the community to prevent emergencies from happening in the first place, and reducing their impact when they do.  

Firefighters spend time out in the community raising awareness of fire prevention and road safety, carrying out home safety visits and engaging with a diverse range of audiences, including older residents, local businesses, community groups and young people.

Watch our video

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 £22,459pa, rising to £29,934pa for a competent wholetime community firefighter.

Further information

4 Selection process

The selection process is lengthy and highly competitive. It is designed to assess applicants’ fitness, physical and mental strengths, personal qualities and resilience against the skills and qualities we are seeking in the role of a wholetime community firefighter.

Following registration of interest, the selection process will involve the following stages.

Online assessments

There are three assessments to be carried out:

  1. Behavioural styles questionnaire - explores your preferred behaviours in a working environment. No revision or additional study is required for this element.
  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. Ability tests - involves completing a series of tests detailed below:
    • Numerical reasoning - measures your ability to understand, interpret and logically evaluate numerical information. You will be presented with graphs, charts and numerical details and required to make calculations on the information presented.
    • Practical reasoning - measures your ability to apply general mechanical principles that support practical problem solving. You will be presented with a series of diagrams and asked to answer questions to demonstrate your understanding of the mechanical principles applicable.
    • Verbal reasoning - measures your ability to understand and interpret written information. You will be presented with a passage of text and asked to answer questions to demonstrate your ability to interpret and analyse verbal information.

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).
  2. Swim test
    Wholetime community firefighters must be able to swim and be confident in the water. The test will consist of:
    • a jump/dive into deep water
    • swimming 50 metres in less than 70 seconds
    • swimming 100 metres continuously on front and/or back in deep water
    • treading water for 30 seconds
    • a surface dive to the floor of the pool
    • climbing out unaided without ladder/steps where the pool design permits.

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 15kg to a height of 1.82m. 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.

Personal statement

This requires you to provide examples of how you demonstrate the attributes included in the person specification and personal qualities and attributes on the job description.

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 will also be required at this stage.

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.

6 Apply to become a wholetime community firefighter

Apply to become a wholetime community firefighter (external link)
Last updated:
1 May 2018

Share this

Share this

Do you have any feedback about this page?

Help us improve this website

Let us know how we're doing. We're constantly trying to improve this website. Your feedback is very important to us. You can simply add a star rating to indicate how useful you found this page. If you have more specific feedback use the form below.

Rate this page:
Clear star rating
  • West Sussex County Council will only use this email address to respond to any issues raised.