Station Commander Simon Thompson

It was the physical challenge of being a firefighter that initially drew Simon Thompson toward the fire service at aged just 18.

Simon explains: "I wanted to join the forces so used to spend all my time in the gym and being physically active. An injury prevented me joining the military so I looked toward the emergency service and firefighting stood out as the most naturally exciting job.

"I had always been a people person and enjoyed customer service work so I already knew I enjoyed being in the community and helping people."

Simon admits he's not the tallest, strongest or most muscular firefighter in the county. "Firefighting is about commitment, passion and drive rather than your size. If you've got those qualities, it doesn't matter what size or shape you are.

"Flexibility is also something you need to be and you have to be emotionally aware in this job.

"I'd like to think I'm a positive person and I think that's a good thing. Change is going to happen and you can either be a passenger or a driver and I'd rather be a driver and be positive about it by contributing to the change."

Six years after joining Suffolk Fire and Rescue Service Simon transferred to Cambridgeshire and decided to start climbing the ranks.

"The reason I went for rank was because I'd achieved what I wanted to achieve and felt comfortable the level I was at and needed to be challenged," he says.

He comments that a highlight of joining Cambridgeshire is the opportunity he's been given to serve at different fire stations. "I've met so many different people and learned so many things from those people - in most jobs, you don't get that opportunity.

"Now what I enjoy most is being able to make work enjoyable and fulfilling for other people. As a manager I really get a buzz in helping others develop and pass on the knowledge that others have given me.

"I also now get the opportunity to have a bit more of a contribution to how the organisation is run.

"I've spent all my childhood doing reports about where I see myself in five years' time but all I know is I want to be working for the fire service and doing the best I can in whatever role I'm in."

Simon's summary of being a firefighter: "It's a great job. If you want to learn, develop, stretch yourself and test yourself then the opportunities are there for everyone."