Operational roles


A firefighter’s role is diverse. The emergencies they attend are varied, including road traffic collisions, water and rope rescues and chemical spillages.

Thankfully, the number of incidents they attend is decreasing thanks to our prevention and education work. Our firefighters spend a lot of their time in the community delivering fire prevention advice and other safety messages.

They visit people and help them to avoid fires in the home and to plan what to do if one occurs. This involves carrying out home safety checks and fitting smoke alarms.

They also deliver presentations and talks to schoolchildren, community and voluntary groups to educate and promote fire safety.

Treating people with dignity and respect is at the heart of what we do. Our communities are diverse and we work hard to meet their needs through our services.

Our firefighters must be able to communicate effectively with all individuals, religious groups and people from a variety of backgrounds and cultures.

Whole time firefighters

Wholetime firefighters work full-time and for the majority of firefighters this will be their primary occupation. They are required to work days, nights, evenings, weekends and public holidays on one of two duty systems.

On-call firefighters

On-call firefighters are men and women who may have other jobs and are able to provide evening, daytime or weekend cover. They are ready to go out to a call the moment a message comes through to their pager. When they are called to an emergency, they could be dealing with any type of major or minor incident, such as road traffic accidents, floods, chemical spills and rescuing people trapped in confined spaces. Part of a firefighter’s role is to encourage a safe community, to prevent fires and emergencies before they happen and to make sure people understand the risks of fire and what they can do to protect themselves.

On Call firefighters could be involved in activities such as giving talks to schools, visiting community groups, fitting smoke alarms in homes and advising homeowners on protecting their properties from fire risks etc.  Firefighters therefore use a range of communication skills and have regular contact with all groups within the community. This type of work requires a range of personal skills such as courage, understanding, reliability, flexibility, determination, self-motivation and the ability to work within a team.

Above all the role requires a real desire to serve the community in which you live or work.

The on-call role and training differs from a wholetime firefighter in three distinct ways:

1.    They must live or work within 5 minutes of the on-call station

2.    Their shifts are based on their availability

3.    The training is broken down in smaller ‘chunks’ to minimise the disruption to the person’s circumstances.

Tyne and Wear Fire and Rescue Service On-Call Station

We currently have one on-call station; this is Chopwell Community Fire Station.

What is it like being an on-call firefighter?

Watch this video clip of on-call firefighter sharing their experiences:


Full training is provided on an ongoing basis; therefore, previous experience is not required. The training that an on-call firefighter undergoes is to the same standard as those of their wholetime colleagues, but it is delivered differently.

The training is provided as follows:

  • The first six weeks will be broken down as:
  • 2 weeks full time training on core skills at Service Headquarters
  • 2 week break in training
  •  2 weeks full time training on breathing apparatus at Service Headquarters
  • A further 6-10 weeks on station training for an evening a week and a morning at the weekend.
  •  Throughout your first year, there will be more training and you will have a final assessment after 12 months.

All new recruits will be Emergency First Aid Trained within the first year.

Pay and Benefits

Payment is made by monthly direct credit to your bank account or building society account.  The rate of pay for on-call firefighters is dependent on your availability and will be reviewed bi-annually each year.

The retaining fee is worked out depending upon the number of hour’s availability given by the employee on a weekly basis. An average hour’s percentage is worked out over a 6-month period and employees are paid for exactly what they have worked.

As well as the bi annual retaining fee, on-call firefighters are paid an hourly rate of pay for attending the following:

  • Drill Night
  • Turnout
  • Training Course  (including the initial full time training as detailed above)
  • Community Safety
  • Standard Tests

You can expect to become a ‘competent’ firefighter (i.e. you have successfully completed your training) within 3 to 4 years. At this point, you may be eligible to transfer, pending a suitable vacancy, to a wholetime firefighter position.

Visit On Call Fire for more information about the role.

Employing an On-Call Firefighter

On-call firefighters get world-class training in health and safety and medical response as well as developing situational awareness, leadership skills and the ability to work in high-pressure situations.

Don’t just take our word for it, watch this video to see how supporting an employee with their role of an on-call firefighter can be good for business

All of our on-call firefighters determine when they are available to be on call.  As an employer, this means that you will still be able to manage your resources in line with your business need.

Application process

The selection process for firefighters is robust and can involve:

  • a series of online tests including psychometric testing, mathematical, verbal reasoning
  • mechanical ability tests
  • role related tests
  • fitness and medical assessments
  • a panel interview

Preparing to apply

Preparing to apply

Watch this video to help you prepare for the role related tests:

We host taster sessions as part of our recruitment campaigns where you can speak to firefighters about their role and sample some of the role related tests.  There are also opportunities to attend a station open day.

Candidates who have attended either an open day or a taster session often perform better during their interviews.


As the role is physically demanding, it’s important to improve and maintain levels of fitness.  The role related tests are designed to assess strength, cardiovascular and flexibility.

We recommend a range of activities to improve your fitness:

Cardiovascular Strength Flexibility
  • Running
  • Cycling
  • Swimming
  • Team sports
  • Rowing
  • Skipping
  • Group exercise classes
  • Climbing
  • Squat
  • Shoulder press
  • Step up
  • Press up
  • Bent over row
  • Load carriage lunge
  • Trunk rotation
  • Dead lift
  • Yoga
  • Tai chi
  • Pilates




Operational roles

We offer other operational roles including:

  • Canine Handler
  • Fire Control Centre
  • Operational Learning and Development

Check for current vacancies.