East Sussex Fire & Rescue Service logo
East Sussex Fire & Rescue Service logo

On-call Firefighters


On-call 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 and Rescue team.

It's an important commitment, but an immensely rewarding way to serve the community, keep the public safe and earn an extra income. 

Key Dates

Join us at one of our Have a Go days:

Timeline for current process

  • Written Tests: January 2022
  • Interviews: February/March 2022
  • Physical Testing Day: 09 April 2022
  • Bristol Measuring PPE: 20 May 2022
  • Skills for Justice weekend: 18/19 June 2022
  • Induction weekend: 25/26 June 2022
  • Core Skills: 4-15 July 2022
  • RTC Skills: 23/24 July 2022
  • Safe Working at Height Input: 29 July 2022
  • Level 2 Basic Water: 13 August 2022

Want to find out more?

Send us an email to enquiries@esfrs.org with your contact details and we will pass your information onto the local station.

Sign up for updates about our events and useful information to give you the best chance of success in our recruitment process.


Every walk of life 

An on-call firefighter is someone who responds to a range of fire and rescue service jobs; these range from emergency calls, working at open days, carrying out work with their local communities and acting as an ambassador for the fire service. 

On-call firefighters come from every walk of life, including homemakers, shopkeepers, builders, farmers, office workers and directors of companies, together with people who are not currently employed. 

Over 90% of On-call firefighters in East Sussex do their firefighting work alongside their day job.  

Full training is provided on an ongoing basis, therefore previous experience is not needed. 


An on-call firefighter could be called out two or three times a week, for a few hours at a time. The on-call hours are based around people’s availability and other commitments. To be an on-call firefighter, you must :  

  • Have a strong desire to support the local community.
  • Be enthusiastic about working as part of a team.
  • Have a reasonable level of personal fitness.
  • Live or/and work within 5 minutes of your local fire station. 
  • You will be required to be clean shaven for Health & Safety reasons, to ensure your Breathing Apparatus has a complete seal.

An integral part of the county’s fire cover

The on-call 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 on-call 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.

How much will I earn? 

On-call Firefighters are paid an annual retaining fee of up to £2,520+, plus an hourly rate of up to £11.51 for any work undertaken for the Service, including responding to incidents and training. 

Annual earnings depend largely on how much cover can be offered and how often on-call firefighters get called out.

The average earned by on-call firefighters in East Sussex is between £5,000 and £7,000*.

+correct at 01 July 2021. *gross average, ESFRS, 2016. 


Please pop down to your local station on drill night (see below) to find out more about the role of the on-call firefighter and to discuss the cover required with the Watch Manager.

The first question we will ask is, "Where do you live and/or work?" 

The reason for this is that on-call 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. 

You can also visit the national on-call website: www.oncallfire.uk  The website gives advice to employers and how having on-call firefighters within their business can bring advantages. These include health and safety and medical response training, as well as developing situational awareness, leadership skills and the ability to work under pressure.

Applicants are required to complete a short online, 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.  

Applicants will be required to commit to a minimum of 40 hours per week, which can be averaged out over a number of weeks. 

Please note you will need to be available on the station drill night (see below) as there is a requirement to attend a minimum of 40 drill nights per year.

If you work a shift pattern in your prime employment, on the application form, please fill in as much detail as possible in the section “please give more details of the hours you are able to work”, we may contact you for more information.

Application form

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.

Please note that applicants who fail to pass the written tests after three attempts will be required to take a twelve month break before re-entering the recruitment process.


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

Please note that applicants who do not pass the interview after two attempts will be required to take a twelve-month break before re-entering the recruitment process.

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.

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 crawl-way wearing a Breathing Apparatus face-mask 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 time-frame, between shuttle runs. This will test your aerobic fitness, muscular strength and stamina.

Please note that applicants who do not pass the physical tests after two attempts will be required to take a twelve-month break before re-entering the recruitment process.

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 an on-call firefighter and the application process is available in this information booklet, which you should read in full.

Ongoing Commitment

You will be contracted to be on call during the hours that you have agreed to provide cover and will therefore need to remain within 5 minutes of the Fire Station during those times, although there will be some flexibility for ad-hoc changes to be agreed with Station Management.  


The initial training will comprise of an induction weekend, a two week Core Skills Course and an RTC weekend.  Once you have successfully completed this you will be able to ride a fire appliance, though in a limited capacity.

Completion of the Core Skills Course places you on the Firefighter (On-call) Development Programme which is accredited through Skills for Justice.  On completion of the Development Programme you will be deemed as a competent firefighter.

There will be further training within 6 months of completing the Core Skills Course as follows: 

  • Breathing Apparatus (BA) Readiness Course- 1 day course
  • Initial BA Wearers Course-  Two weeks
  • BA weekend- Two days 
  • 2 ½ hour Drill nights on your station each week

  • 4 hours per month theoretical training 

There will be regular fitness tests on station during drill nights to ensure your fitness levels do not drop between attendance on the Core Skills Course and attendance on the BA Course.


To apply fill in this on-line application form.

Please allow 10 working days for a response.

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 on-call crews, below is a list of those that do and the recruitment status for that station.  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 on-call crews.                               

Station Recruitment Status & Drill Nights

Station  Recruitment Status   Drill Night & Time
 Barcombe  All cover considered  Wednesday - 1900
 Battle  All cover considered  Tuesday - 1845
 Bexhill  Not currently  Tuesday - 1900
 Broad Oak  All cover considered
 Tuesday - 1900
 Burwash  All cover considered
 Tuesday - 1900
 Crowborough  Weekday daytime and Weekend cover
 Monday - 1845
 Forest Row  All cover considered  Monday - 1900
 Hailsham  Weekend 24 hour cover & Weekday daytime cover
 Monday - 1900
 Heathfield  Weekday daytime and Weekend cover  Monday - 1900
 Herstmonceux  Weekday daytime and Weekend cover
 Monday - 1845
 Lewes   All cover considered  Wednesday - 1900
 Mayfield   All cover considered  Monday - 1900
 Newhaven   All cover considered  Wednesday - 1900
 Pevensey   All cover considered  Monday - 1900
 Rye   Weekday daytime and Weekend cover  Tuesday - 1845
 Seaford   Daytime cover preferred  Wednesday - 1845
 Wadhurst  All cover considered
 Monday - 1900
 Uckfield   Not currently recruiting  Monday - 1900



Latest Update :
14 June 2022
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