Could you hack being a firefighter?

Wallingford, Goring, Watlington, Henley and Didcot Fire Stations are currently recruiting on-call firefighters and would-be recruits are invited to a ‘Have A Go’ day at Watlington on Saturday April 21.

Oxfordshire Fire and Rescue Service is particularly keen to encourage more women to apply as they are currently under-represented and a serving county female firefighter will be on hand during the day which runs from 10am to 2pm.

Those attending will have an opportunity to try out some of the challenging tests they need to pass which include:

  • Climbing a ladder - to demonstrate confidence when working at height
  • Casualty evacuation over 50 metres– to demonstrate overall strength
  • Equipment carry – to demonstrate cardio fitness and strength
  • Wearing a breathing apparatus set – to check that candidates are not claustrophobic
  • Grip trip – to measure hand/grip strength

Station manager Marcus Reay said: “We have fantastic local crews of on-call firefighters, and we are actively looking for more people to join the teams to help protect their local community.

“There is no typical firefighter and we employ people from all walks of life. We usually ask for a minimum commitment of 35 hours on-call per week which sounds a lot but on average you are called out 2-3 times per week for an hour at a time.

“The hours are flexible to suit the needs of the station and the individual. I would encourage anyone who is interested and wishes to know more to visit their local station and speak to the managers.”

Two firefighters revealed why they enjoy their roles so much. Emily James of Goring Fire Station said: “I became an on-call firefighter as I wanted to give back to my community and it’s a fantastic way to stay active and to challenge yourself. I have gone on to become a full-time firefighter as I loved the job so much. The team spirit is a huge part of the fire service, people will always support you with your training or give you cover if you need the time off."

While Terry Coupar, of Wallingford Fire Station added: “It’s described as a job, but for most of us it’s so much more. I’ve learnt so many new skills over the years thanks to all the courses and training, I have a real camaraderie with my team mates – all while earning a little extra money and serving my community.”

All of Oxfordshire’s fire stations have on-call teams that make up 60% of the county’s operational fire and rescue service, with 18 out of 24 stations crewed solely by on-call. On-call firefighters are people that will go about their daily everyday life until they are alerted to an emergency incident in their area; then they have five minutes to get to their local fire station and respond as a professional firefighter.

Oxfordshire County Council’s Fire and Rescue Service is especially keen to hear from people that are able to provide cover during the daytime in the week and at weekends. Marcus said: “We’re actively looking for people that are able to provide on-call cover during the day, so we want to reach out to people who are in close proximity to their local station and perhaps work locally / from home or are available while their children are at school.

“I would also appeal to local employers across Oxfordshire to ask them to consider supporting staff to become on-call firefighters. Examples of larger companies who already do this being The Higgs Group, Vero and the Environment Agency. There are also smaller business such as Technical Moulding projects and local councils such as Henley Town Council.”

Becoming an on-call firefighter is a paid, professional role and many people balance it with their day-to-day job. On average they earn between £5,000 and £9,000 per annum, as well as having access to other benefits including the firefighter pension scheme and blue light benefits. They receive the same training as wholetime firefighters, worth over £7,000.

  • Anyone interested in coming along on the day please email fire.recruitment@oxfordshire.gov.uk