Aspiring on-call firefighters put to the test


Skill, stamina and strength were top of the agenda as prospective on-call firefighters faced a series of aptitude tests at the county’s new training centre

Fire EngineThroughout the year, on-call firefighter recruits are put through their paces before they are approved to carry out the crucial role of protecting the lives of Suffolk people.

During this week’s recruitment event, existing firefighters were on hand to give advice and guidance about the on-call firefighter role and its importance to the county’s fire and rescue service. Ten prospective recruits were then measured and kitted up in protective clothing and asked to complete the following challenges:


  • Rolling out and packing up a 25m length of firefighting hose six times in eight minutes to test stamina and precision
  • Working in a confined space in the pitch black to test for nerves and resilience
  • Climbing a ladder three stories high and carrying out a series actions at the top to test ability to work safely and confidently at heights

They were also fitted with breathing apparatus to help prepare them for responding to house fires where they may have to rescue people who have become trapped by flames.

28 of the 35 fire stations in Suffolk are staffed by on-call firefighters who live or work in the local community and can be alerted at any time of the day or night. Once they have been alerted to an emergency, on-call firefighters must immediately drop everything to respond to the emergency.

Councillor Colin Spence, Suffolk County Council’s Portfolio Holder for Public Protection said;

"Many of the fire engines across Suffolk are crewed by part-time, on-call firefighters. Our aim is to ensure that these fire engines are available 100% of the time but experience in Suffolk, and across the UK, is that this is becoming increasingly difficult - particularly during the normal 'nine-to-five' working day.

“That is why we’re trying to encourage as many people as possible to consider a career as an on-call firefighter. There are few things people can do to make a more valuable contribution to the community in which they live or work, and I think the event at our new training centre at Wattisham is an excellent way of showcasing just what the role has to offer.”

Deputy Chief Fire Officer Mark Hardingham, said;

“The recruitment event was extremely successful - it is very encouraging to see men and women from various towns and villages showing a real interest in becoming an on - call firefighter. 

“The fantastic facilities at Wattisham enhanced the tests and enabled us to provide recruits with a very realistic environment to work in. This was vitally important as it will help to prepare them for the reality of working as a fully trained firefighter.

“Suffolk has about 450 on-call firefighters and an increasing number of these are female firefighters. They come from all walks of life and are paid for their time. They are trained to use the same equipment and respond to the same emergencies as their full time colleagues. We are continually looking to recruit in areas across the whole of Suffolk and I would encourage anyone who feels they may fit the bill to take the next step in finding out more.”

In February 2012, the firefighters who were successful today will be joining other new firefighters to complete their two week basic training course after which time they will be able to respond to fires and other emergencies on fire engines from their local fire station.

To find out more about becoming an on-call firefighter, people can visit their local fire station, access information from the Suffolk Fire and Rescue Service website, or alternatively contact On-Call Liaison Officer Russell Punchard on 07979 159154.