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East Sussex Fire & Rescue Service logo
Retained Firefighters

Retained Firefighters

Retained recruitment

Ordinary People Can Do

Extraordinary Things

Retained Duty System (RDS) Firefighters are ordinary people that combine their day jobs with being on call for Fire and Rescue situations and emergencies. When the call comes in, they drop what they are doing and become part of the East Sussex Fire & Rescue team. It's a huge commitment, but an immensely rewarding way to serve the community, keep the public safe and earn an extra income.


The Retained Duty System is one of three Duty Systems (alongside Shift and Day Crewed) that combine to provide operational fire cover across the County of East Sussex.

All Firefighters in East Sussex are trained to respond to the same incidents and RDS Firefighters are not a secondary or backup service. They are an integral part of the County’s fire cover and enable us to crew more fire appliances in some of the more rural and remote areas of the County, in the most cost effective way.

Over 90% of RDS Firefighters in East Sussex do their Firefighting work alongside their day job. For example, we have office workers, self employed people and those at home during school hours. RDS Firefighters are paid an annual Retaining Fee of up to £2,935+, plus an hourly rate of up to £13.40 for any work undertaken for the Service, including responding to incidents and training. Your annual earnings will depend largely on how much cover you can offer and how often you get called out, the average earned by RDS Firefighters in East Sussex is between £5,000 and £7,000*.

+correct at 1 July 2015.

*gross average, ESFRS, 2006.


The first question we have to ask is, "Where do you live and/or work?" The reason for this is that RDS Firefighters carry alerters when on duty and need to be at the Fire Station and ready to turn out within 5 minutes of the alerter sounding, travelling at normal road speeds, typically from home or their place of work. 

Applicants are required to complete a short, straightforward application form, which gives us information on your contact details, the cover you are able to offer and the distance you are from your local Fire Station. Initially, candidates are considered on the cover they offer and distance elements alone.

Elements of both the Written Tests and the Interview are designed to assess your attitudes and motivations against set Personal Qualities and Attributes (PQAs).

Further information on the PQAs will be sent to you along with the invitation to the written tests, should your

application progress to this stage.

Candidates will then be required to pass all of the following tests:

  • National Firefighter Questionnaire
  • Working with Numbers
  • Understanding Information
  • Situational Awareness and Problem Solving


Candidates with conditions such as dyslexia will be given the opportunity to make themselves known to the assessment team. You will be asked what reasonable adjustments, if any, you require to undertake the tests and we will endeavour to implement these where possible.

This will last for approximately 45 minutes and will consist of questions designed to demonstrate ways in which you meet the relevant Fire Service PQAs.

These tests are related to the actual tasks a Firefighter will face and are designed to test fitness and the ability to understand and apply information.

The tests are timed and consist of the following:

A ladder climb

Whilst attached to a safety line, you’ll climb a 12 metre ladder and carry out a selected task within a time limit.

This test will assess your confidence and co-ordination whilst working at heights.

Casualty evacuation

A simulated rescue of a casualty from an open space,this test involves upper and lower body strength and stamina.

Ladder lift

You’ll be asked to lift the weight of a ladder to a defined height within a time limit to simulate housing a ladder back on an appliance. This will test upper and lower body strength.

Enclosed space

You’ll negotiate your way through a measured crawlway wearing a Breathing Apparatus facemask within a set time. Your vision will be obscured and you will be asked to identify a number of objects during this test.

Equipment assembly

This aims to test your ability to comprehend and follow instructions. You’ll be asked to assemble and disassemble a piece of equipment following a series of diagrams within a set time frame.

Equipment carry

A variety of equipment will need to be carried to a set point within a defined timeframe, between shuttle runs. This will test your aerobic fitness, muscular strength and stamina.

A full medical examination by the Service Occupational Health Department is required. 

The purpose of the medical is to assess your general level of health and to ensure you are fit to take on the role of a Firefighter.

A medical report from your GP will be applied for, for which your consent will be required. Any conditions you may have are assessed on an individual basis. 

There are no ‘blanket bans’ on conditions such as Asthma and Diabetes and we do not ask for 20:20 vision. 

All conditions are assessed in line with the requirements of the job.

More information about the role of a retained firefighter and the application process is available in this information pack, which you should read in full.


To apply, download and complete the application form listed below and return it to:

Human ResourcesEast Sussex Fire & Rescue Service20 Upperton RoadEastbourneBN21 1EU

If you have any problems downloading the information pack or application form, please telephone our recruitment line: 01323 462349

Your data will not be provided to a third party and will only be used for the purpose of this campaign.

Not all Fire Stations in East Sussex have RDS crews. Below is a list that do, with those currently recruiting listed first. If you live in one of the areas where we are not currently recruiting, you can still apply to us and we will contact you when vacancies arise.

Brighton, Hove, Hastings and Eastbourne Fire Stations do not have Retained Crews.    

Currently recruiting 

  • Barcombe - all cover considered
  • Battle - day cover only, weekdays and weekends
  • Burwash - all cover considered but priority is day cover
  • Forest Row - all cover considered
  • Heathfield - weekend daytime cover a priority
  • Herstmonceux - all cover considered
  • Lewes - all cover considered
  • Mayfield - priority daytime cover
  • Pevensey - daytime cover only
  • Rye - daytime cover preferred
  • Wadhurst - daytime cover preferred

Not currently recruiting

  • Bexhill
  • Broad Oak
  • Crowborough
  • Hailsham
  • Newhaven
  • Seaford
  • Uckfield 

Latest Update :
29 September 2015