Last updated:
4 August 2017

Become a wholetime community firefighter

Find out what's involved to become a wholetime community firefighter and contribute to making West Sussex safer, stronger and more resilient.

1 Application timetable

The selection process to become a wholetime community firefighter has now closed.

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 employment and to start formal training to become a wholetime community firefighter.

The expected timetable is:

  • Phase 1: Register your interest
  • Phase 2: Application forms sent
  • Phase 3: Closing date for applications
  • Phase 4: Written tests
  • Phase 5: Fitness tests
  • Phase 6: Physical role-related tests
  • Phase 7: Interviews and presentation
  • Phase 8: Medical assessments (final stage of the assessment process).

2 Eligibility

To be eligible to apply applicants 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 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 language, mathematics and either single or double science, or be a retained firefighter currently employed by West Sussex Fire and Rescue Service
  • hold a full valid UK driving licence - desirable.

Please note: Proof of all eligibility requirements will be required.

Watch our video

3 What is it like being a wholetime community firefighter?

The modern wholetime community firefighter responds to fires, as well as a range of other emergencies including 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 more 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.

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 £22,237 pa, rising to £29,638 pa 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.

Submission of application form

The application form will require applicants to demonstrate how they meet the Personal Qualities and Attributes (PQAs) required for the wholetime community firefighter. The PQAs are:

  • working with others
  • commitment to excellence
  • commitment to development
  • commitment to diversity and integrity
  • communicating effectively.

Written tests

These tests consist of a series of multiple choice questions designed to assess applicants’ abilities and aptitude for becoming a firefighter. They are split into two categories:

  1. Wholetime community firefighter ability tests
    Three timed tests to be completed in a set time:
    • working with numbers
    • understanding information
    • situation awareness and problem solving.
  2. Wholetime community firefighter questionnaire
    Designed to provide information on personal style and behaviour. The information given will be considered alongside the responses to the ability tests to decide if an applicant is suited to becoming a wholetime community firefighter.

Fitness tests

Fitness will be assessed to ensure applicants can meet the requirements of the role. The following tests will be used:

  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. Candidates need to complete this exercise 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 need to 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. Candidates will need to complete this exercise within a given time.

Interview and presentation

The purpose of the interviews is to assess applicants’ general aptitude for the role of a 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, from 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

The application process to become a wholetime community firefighter has now closed.

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