Firefighters are responsible for protecting people, property and the environment from emergencies and accidents. As part of the emergency services, they are immediate responders to callouts and requests for assistance from other services.
Historically, firefighters would predominantly attend the scenes of fires, but the role nowadays has become more diverse, as firefighters also attend scenes such as road traffic accidents (RTA), chemical spillages, and floods.
Firefighters also play a vital role in the community by promoting and increasing fire safety awareness, and educate the public through talks in schools and organisations. They may also be responsible for enforcing fire standards in commercial premises, and carry out inspections to ensure compliance with fire safety regulations.
In order to reach the scene of emergencies efficiently, firefighters should possess geographical knowledge of their locality for navigation, and should regularly inspect and maintain vehicles and equipment, such as fire hydrants.
Firefighters regularly receive on-going training to extend their knowledge, including practice drills and physical training, and update First Aid qualifications.
Courage and resilience
First Aid knowledge
The ability to operate equipment
Understanding the process of fire-incident reporting.
Being able to work independently and in a team
To work under pressure and remain calm
Time management, and efficiency to respond to emergency situations
To have good manual dexterity and physical fitness
To demonstrate sensitivity and empathy when communicating with members of the public in distress at the scene of incidents
Excellent communication skills
Being able to use initiative
There are no formal qualifications required to become a firefighter, although four GCSEs or equivalent vocational qualifications are desirable.
Application is attained directly through each fire and rescue service, only at times of open recruitment. There is a stipulation to live within a certain radius of the fire service that is being applied to.
To be eligible to make an application to the fire service, the following criteria must be met:
18 years of age
Numeracy and literacy skills
Full UK driving licence
During the recruitment process, there are a number of aspects that are tested together with a formal interview, consisting of:
Six National Physical tests
Medical testing (hearing, eyesight, lung function, chest X-ray)
Psychological testing: assessment against National Qualities and Attributes (PQA).
Upon successful completion into the fire service, training commences which takes between 12 and 16 weeks, followed by shadowing of an experienced fire fighter. During this time, there is the opportunity to study for a relevant qualification, and continue with CPD.
As entry into the Fire and Rescue service is highly competitive, there are relevant undergraduate courses that can assist with gaining skills and knowledge for the industry, such as a BSc in Fire and Rescue, or in Fire and Leadership Studies.
Opportunities for progression through the fire service can come as a result of skill level and ability, and through attendance at training and development. The first promotions from a firefighter are likely to as managers/commanders, within which there are four progressions, starting at Crew Managers/Commanders to Group Managers. Responsibilities increase from managing small incidents to larger incidents, and from monitoring service delivery in a few stations to across a geographical area.
Progression from these roles are into Officer roles, ranging from Assistant Chief Officer (ACO), to Deputy Chief Fire Officer, and finally as Chief Fire Officer. Strategic responsibility increases with each role, and attendance at the scenes of emergencies is reduced.
Other means of progression can be to specialise, including Fire Investigation, Fire and Risk Management, and Urban Search and Rescue (USAR). Together with specialist areas or separately, there are also courses which can be studied to increase knowledge and skill-set offered through the Institute of Fire Engineers which range from Certificates and Awards at Level 2 to Level 5.
Pros and cons
Positive team work approach through close amounts of time with colleagues
Does not require formal qualifications
Being able to save lives and treat the injured
Providing a service for the community
Benefits including: the use of free onsite gyms, a comprehensive training and development framework, discount schemes, and the Firefighters Charity for which provides support rehabilitation for members, and support for members and their families when necessary.
Maintaining high standards of physical fitness which can be tiring/require self-discipline
Rigorous application process
Risk of injury and death
High pressure and stressful situations
Exposure to harmful chemicals
According to the Fire Brigade Union, a trainee firefighter can earn in the region of £22,237. During the development phase, salaries can rise to £23,162. Once a firefighter reaches competency, salaries can be expected up to £29,638.
Fire Brigades Union –
The Institution of Fire Engineers and the International Organisation for Fire Professionals –
National Association of Retired Firefighters –
The Fire Fighters Charity –
UK Fire Service Resources and Information –