What’s It Like To Be A Firefighter?

Many people aspire to becoming a firefighter, but only the select few ever achieve their dreams. Each year many thousands of people apply to join the Fire Service; however, the competition is so fierce nowadays that you really have to be exceptionally well prepared to stand a chance of succeeding.

I personally spent 17 years in the Fire Service and I have to say I enjoyed the majority of my time in the job. In this article I will explain a little about what it is like to become a firefighter and also how to become a firefighter by preparing effectively for the selection process.

I joined Kent Fire and Rescue Service back in 1993 and the selection process was very different to what is now. When I joined in 1993 it helped if you were 6 feet tall, from a military background and spent many hours in the gym lifting weights. Part of the firefighter fitness test involved a requirement to bench press 50kg twenty times within a minute! I found this part easy, but only because I was very much in to weight training. At the time there were more and more women looking to join the Fire Service but some of them found the bench press too difficult to pass.

fire service

The changing face of the Fire Service

Thankfully, the Fire Service started to question the bench press element of the fitness test and eventually it was removed. Whilst I am in support of prospective candidates being able to reach a certain level of fitness I disagree that the averagee firefighter needs to be a bodybuilder in order to carry out his or her job competently.

Having attended many hundreds of emergency calls during my 17 years in the job I have never really witnessed the need for a firefighter to be able to bench press 50kgs in order to do their job properly! Thankfully, more and more women started to join the Fire Service. It is my opinion that the Fire Service used to employ too many males; a Fire Service full of male firefighters is clearly not representative of the community in which it serves!

Anyway, now that the selection process is more geared towards the requirements of the job it makes it a far easier process to prepare for. Yes, the firefighter selection process is hard to pass, but it can be passed successfully if you prepare for it in the right way.

The firefighter selection process

The first step is to obtain a copy of the firefighter personal qualities and attributes. These attributes are basically the blue-print for the job of a firefighter and you will be assessed against these during the firefighter application form, the firefighter tests and also the firefighter interview. They cover a number of different areas including being able to work as a member of a team, being community focused, being confident and resilient, being able to work under pressure and also being open to change within the Fire Service. The first step in your pursuit to becoming a firefighter is to learn the personal qualities and attributes and try to think of ways that you can match then with previous evidence and experiences.

During the application form and the firefighter interview you will be required to provide evidence of where you meet each of the assessable PQA’s, so make sure you can do this or you will fail. During the selection process you will also be required to pass the firefighter tests. These involve, amongst others, an ability to pass an understanding information test, situational awareness and problem solving tests and a working with numbers test. To obtain sample firefighter test questions please go HERE.

Some final thoughts

Finally, as I mentioned earlier, the firefighter fitness test has changed considerably over the last few years. Yes, it is important to work on your fitness but you do not need to lift heavy weights in order to pass the selection process. I would recommend concentrating on improving your aerobic fitness, some light weight workouts and also focus on improving your well-being. This can be done by eating a sensible and healthy diet, reducing your alcohol intake and also stopping smoking.

Good luck with passing the firefighter selection process.

Richard McMunn

Richard McMunn

Some more resources on how to become a firefighter…

For more help on the firefighter recruitment process, check out our specialised guide on firefighter interviews questions and answers.

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