A firefighter is also known as a fireman or firewoman. They work in challenging circumstances to help to protect people from fire and other dangers. In this role you also provide give advice on fire prevention. Because of the nature of the job, being a firefighter can be a dangerous employment. As a consequence, this job will attract a person who is a good team player. Additionally, you need to be both brave and focused. If you are interested in becoming a firefighter, then volunteering or working in a support role is a good first step. This can be in emergency call handling or fire safety. It will give you an idea of what the job is like. You will also get access to internal vacancies in the fire service.
What Does a Firefighter Do
A firefighter has different experiences on different days. In other words, no two days are the same. As a result during a normal working day, a firefighter will be expected to do some of the following basic tasks:
- Maintaining and inspecting firefighting equipment.
- Taking part in training is a regular feature. You will also be expected to carry out practice drills.
- You will sometimes give presentations to schools. Sometimes you will also talk to and community groups.
- Firefighters need to inspect buildings. You do this to make sure they meet fire safety regulations.
On some working days, you will also need to do some other more high-risk tasks. These will include:
- Responding to emergency call-outs.
- Rescue people and animals. This can be both from burning buildings and from accident sites.
- Control and extinguish fires safely.
- You will also be expected to deal with bomb. In addition, you will also need to deal with floods.
- Finally, firemen also deal with and manage chemical or hazardous substance spills.
Who Employs Firefighters
Most firefighters are employed by fire and rescue services. Fire and rescue services are publicly funded to undertake fire protection work in a town or geographic area. All of these types of firefighters are classed as public sector workers. Some firefighters are trained with and work for the Royal Air Force (RAF). These are also public service workers. Some firefighters work in private companies. These companies are usually factories where the processes used can be risky or potentially cause fires or spills. These firefighters are private-sector employees.
Job Salary for a Firefighter
The official UK Government statistics on the job salary for a firefighter places the starting wage at £24,191. This rises to £ 32,244 for experienced firefighters. Another source estimates the average firefighter’s salary in the UK to be £36,510. This is based on a recorded minimum of £22,984. It also suggests a maximum salary of £75,000. Some other figures are useful to allow you to compare salaries. In the UK, the national average wage is estimated to be around £30,000 according to the Office for National Statistics (ONS). The current National Living Wage (which must be paid to people aged 23 and over) means the minimum untaxed income for a 40-hour week is over £21,000 per year. As with other jobs, there are significant regional differences in the salary of a firefighter in different parts of the UK. Firefighters in London and the South East of England are, like other professions, paid more than in other parts of the UK.
How Often is a Firefighter Normally Paid
You can normally expect to be paid a salary or wage every month.
Who Negotiates a Job Salary for a Firefighter
Salaries for firefighters in fire stations are negotiated by the Fire Brigades Union. This is done on a national basis. In addition, there may also be regional geographic weightings.
What Sort of Contracts Do Firefighters Have
Firefighters in both the public and private sectors are permanently employed. You will have very stable contracts.
Additional Earning Potential
Firefighters can earn extra income from overtime. You can also take on smaller additional jobs on the days when you are not working as a firefighter.
How to Become a Firefighter
The four main routes to becoming a firefighter are:
- Applying directly to the fire and rescue service is a major option. Every fire service will set its own individual entry requirements, but you will usually be asked for some GCSEs or equivalent. Most fire services take on new recruits once every 12 months, so you’ll need to find out when they are due to be recruiting.
- A college course at your local Further Education college is another route.
- An apprenticeship done with a training provider and your employer in the fire service.
- A fire service training course. Again, this will be linked to an FE college or training provider.
All firefighters will need to pass a series of tests, regardless of how they enter the fire services. These are:
- An online test to assess your judgement and ability. This will simulate a realistic work setting.
- A numeracy test is required. You will also need to pass a reading test.
- There will also be practical selection tests to find out whether you can do the physical tasks needed for the job.
Qualifications/Courses – Firefighter
The main college courses for a firefighter are a Level 2 or 3 Diploma in Public Services. To enrol you will usually need:
- 2 or more GCSEs at grades 9 to 3 (A* to D), or equivalent, for a level 2 course.
- 4 or 5 GCSEs at grades 9 to 4 (A* to C), or equivalent, for a level 3 course.
Training on an operational firefighter advanced apprenticeship is also a route to a qualification. You’ll always need to be employed by a fire service to do this. Many people apply for a job by doing a Level 2 Certificate in Fire and Rescue Services in the Community. This course is usually run by local fire services. This qualification is aimed at people who have some responsibility for fire safety, like housing wardens and fire prevention officers. Further, this route will allow you to practically test your suitability for fire safety work while studying.
Qualifications/Courses – Fire Engine Drivers
- Fire engine drivers need to have a full driving licence. They also need to be experienced drivers.
- The Driver Certificate of Professional Competence (CPC) qualification is required to drive a lorry, bus or coach. You must have Driver CPC if you drive a lorry, bus or coach as the main part of your job.
- Fire engine drivers must do 35 hours of periodic training to get their CPC. After this you must then do a further 35 hours of periodic training every 5 years. The reason for this is to maintain your CPC.
- It is illegal to drive professionally without CPC. Further, you can be fined up to £1000 for driving without it.
- Many fire engine drivers look to gain their full Driver CPC at the same time as gaining their HGV driving licence. They do this because there is a great deal of overlap between the testing.
Parts of the CPC test
Four different tests make up the CPC test. These four tests are:
- Part 1 is a theory test which includes sections on multiple choice answers and also a hazard perception test. The multiple-choice part currently needs 85% to pass. This hazard perception test uses video clips.
- The second test, Part 2, is computer-based test. It is based seven case studies which test your understanding of common hazards. This test needs a mark of around 80% to pass.
- Part 3 is another theory test. The focus is on vehicle safety questions. It consists of questions on practical road driving, and some off-road exercises.
- The final test, Part 4, is a practical test. This one you must undertake with an actual vehicle.
Alternative Phrases for an HGV Licence
The Heavy Goods Vehicle (HGV) licence is also known as CAT C (Category C). This is the most commonly held HGV licence by UK lorry drivers. It is intended for vehicles more than 7.5 tonnes, with or without a trailer. An HGV-licenced driver is also termed as someone who has a Class 2 driving licence. A Class 2 driver is qualified to drive a truck over 3,500kg. This can include a trailer weighing up to 750kg. This type of smaller truck is frequently referred to as a rigid vehicle. It can weigh up to 32 tonnes within the terms of a Class 2 driving licence. It is important to know there is no difference between the LGV licence and the HGV licence. In other words, they mean exactly the same thing. Remember too that Heavy Goods Vehicle (HGV) is an older term and Large Goods Vehicle (LGV) is a newer European Union term. Since Brexit, the term HGV is now more widely used again.
General Skills Required
- Good manual skills when working with your hands.
- You must have the ability to be thorough. This includes remaining focused and pay attention to detail.
- Excellent judgement has to be exercised quickly.
- Firemen must have the ability to work well with others.
- Customer service skills in dealing with the public is essential.
- You must have patience. On top of this, you need the ability to remain calm in stressful situations.
- Sensitivity and understanding in all circumstances.
- You should adopt a proactive attitude in working with colleagues to resolve problems. This is important because it can affect how quickly a fire is brought under control.
- Good physical fitness is essential. This is because firefighters often have to stand up for many hours and often carry heavy loads.
- Ability to understand and comply with health and safety rules for firefighting, and to follow orders.
Specific Skills Required
- Knowledge of fire safety and the nature of hazards is essential, along with some knowledge of public safety and security.
- Firefighters need to be able to carry out basic tasks on a computer or hand-held device.
- You need to be a quick thinker: excellent judgement has to be exercised quickly.
- Physical skills like strength, balance and coordination are essential.
- You should be able to communicate in a focused and commanding way when dealing with the public in the event of a crisis.
- You must also have knowledge of training. This includes understanding how to present information.
- A driving licence is useful since many firefighters need to drive fire engines.
- You may need to wear protective clothing and usually a uniform.
Technology Skills Required
- Use of firefighting equipment. A wide variety of tools need to be used.
- Need to drive a fire engine for fire engine drivers.
Challenges of Being a Firefighter
- Fearlessness and bravery are essential.
- Emotional resilience is needed to deal with the consequences of fire. Trauma is common. This can arise because of injury or loss of team members when dealing with fires.
- Firefighters need to work in all weather. As a result this can be challenging in extreme weather.
- Maintaining good relationships with other team members is essential.
- You may not be able to get public transport to suit your shift times. As a result, this can be a problem if you don’t have your own transport.
- You will need to work at heights.
Type of Person Suited for this Work
- Someone with a good level of physical fitness.
- Someone who can behave responsibly at all times.
- You need to be a good team player since firefighters operate in teams who rely on one another.
- A firefighter should be a person who is brave.
- The need for excellent and speedy judgement is needed in this job. But at the same time you have to know how to balance risks.
- You should be someone open to corrections and criticism. Taking constructive criticism can improve how you interact with the public in a personal and professional manner.
General Expected Working Hours
Firefighters will normally work around 41 to 43 hours a week. Further, these working patterns will usually be set through a rota system. This approach is done to make sure that there is always a firefighter team available. As a consequence, every firefighter will have to work some weekends, night shifts and a few Bank Holidays.
Location of Work
Firefighters are usually based in fire stations covering towns or localities. In addition, you will work wherever their commissioned work takes you. This will include the scenes of fires and other disasters. You will also need to go to schools and other places where you can give talks on your work and demonstrations. Some firefighters will work in factories or other commercial premises.
There are excellent prospects within the fire service. All fire services have a programme that lets you plan and track your career development, with support in making career choices within the fire service. This means you could work your way up to crew manager, watch manager or even station manager. Further, if you’re prepared to move between fire services, it’s possible to become an area manager. You can also move on to be a brigade manager or a chief fire officer. Another promotion route is to specialise in fire safety and prevention work. This is linked to professional qualifications leading to membership of the Institution of Fire Engineers (IFE). Of course, with an HGV licence, you can also become a fire engine driver.