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Firefighters visiting residents homes

The role of a firefighter

Being a wholetime firefighter is a satisfying, exciting and varied career.

The common image of the fire and rescue service is firefighters turning out in fire engines and fighting fires. It is true of course that some of the work involves attendance at fires, but the role of the Service is much wider.

The role of the fire and rescue service has changed considerably and the work undertaken by firefighters in the community changed to reflect the new demands made on the service.

In a modern fire and rescue service, fighting fires is only part of the role. Greater emphasis is placed on our role within the community, with firefighters spending more time out in the community raising awareness, conducting home fire safety checks and communicating fire prevention and other safety messages. This requires the ability to communicate with all groups within the community, especially the elderly, young adults and school children. It involves carrying out presentations and talks, visiting people's homes and talking to residents about how they can plan to avoid and survive a fire if it occurs.  In many instances, this will involve fitting smoke alarms on behalf of those people to ensure their safety.

Firefighters face all kinds of different challenges - there are unpredictable environmental factors like floods and storms, there are road traffic collisions and unforeseen events like oil spills and the growing threat of terrorism.

Protecting society against all of these dangers requires a forward-looking approach and new kinds of skills and knowledge.

In addition, firefighters' work life and training also has to be geared to responding at top speed to emergency calls, regardless of weather conditions or the time of day. Every time firefighters are called to the scene of an emergency they must be prepared to deploy each and every skill in which they have been trained.

Fully competent firefighters are skilled technicians capable of using the most modern equipment, methods and techniques to undertake the full range of firefighting, rescue, road collisions and other emergencies which the fire and rescue service is called upon to deal with.

When they arrive at an incident, as part of a team under the command of a watch commander or crew commander, firefighters may individually have to absorb a great deal of information rapidly and apply the skills they have learnt in conditions which will often be extremely dangerous and confusing. Despite all the training given in preparation for such incidents, firefighters will, from time to time, be faced with new situations where they may individually be required to provide the answers using previous experiences as a guide.

A firefighter wearing breathing apparatus, feeling a way through a smoke filled building with toxic hazards in order to perform a rescue, cannot ask for instructions. In order to function effectively in emergencies every firefighter's pre-eminent characteristics must be those of courage, physical strength, the capacity for rapid, intense and sustained effort, an unquestioning acceptance of orders at emergencies combined with the capacity to use initiative when alone, the skilled technicians complete an automatic familiarity with the equipment and tools of the profession which may range up to major items of plant such as turntable ladders, a practical understanding of the basis of a wide range of subjects necessary to anticipate and overcome hazards, sympathy towards the victims of emergencies and the ability to carry on in what may occasionally be emotionally harrowing circumstances.

Job Description

The Job Description of a wholetime firefighter can be found here.

Person Specification

The qualities that we require for a wholetime firefighter can be found here.

Hours of Work

You will be required to work days, nights, evenings, weekends and public holidays.

Cambridgeshire's shift system works in the rota pattern of two day shifts 0800-1800 followed by two night shifts 1800-0800 and then four days off, known as rota days. Wisbech is day crewed 7 days a week from 0800-1800. Ely and St. Neots are day crewed Monday - Friday 0800-1800.

However on occasions throughout the year you will work on roaming appliance. When you do this you will still follow your watch rota pattern but work four day shifts (two day shifts will replace your two night shifts).  You will also have to come in for up to four training days per year. These days are planned in and are outside your normal working pattern.