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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. 

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 Firefighter 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 Firefighter 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. 

We run Have-a-go days where you can find out more about being a firefighter.

Want to find out more?

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

We will also pass on your details to the local station who may make contact to offer further support.


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 emergency response.

All our firefighters are trained to respond to the same incidents and on-call firefighters 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 £3,450+, plus an hourly rate of up to £15.75 for any work undertaken for the Service, including responding to incidents and training.  (Correct of July 2022 for a competent firefighter)

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 Firefighter 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. 

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.

Application Form

Applicants are required to register on our online recruitment portal, select the station that they wish to apply for and complete a short application form.

Initially, candidates are considered on the cover they offer and distance elements, as well as any potential conflicts of interest with other employment.  

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 varied shift pattern in your primary employment, you will be ask to select what a typical week might look like, but will have the opportunity to provide additional information about your shift pattern and what you are able to offer the Fire Service. 

On-line Assessments

The online assessments will assess your natural behaviours, reactions, reasoning and decision making. This information will help understand whether you have a 'natural disposition' to the Firefighter role and will help us to shortlist candidates for the next stage in the process, the Interview.

The assessments will take the form of games or tasks which you will be able to complete on your own device, at a time and place that is convenient to you.

If you have a disability or neurodivergence such as dyslexia or dyspraxia, please share this on the application form or speak to the assessment team before taking the assessments.

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 Fire Service values and behaviours. 

We have an online course that we strongly suggest that you access and read about our expected behaviours before you attend an interview. 

Taking the online course

When you click the link to the course below you will be taken to a log in area

1) Click on

2) This will expand the box, click on

You will then be taken directly to the course.

Take the Course

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.

Physical Tests

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 MAY 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 two induction weekends, a two week Core Skills Course (Monday to Friday) and an RTC weekend.  Once you have successfully completed these elements you will be able to ride a fire appliance, though in a limited capacity.

Once you have completed the initial training you will become a Firefighter in Development and will be placed 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.  We would anticipate that this process would take approximately 2 years, but completion times with vary according to the individual.

There will be further training within 12 months of completing the Core Skills Course as follows:    

  • Safe Working at Height Course- 2 days spaced 6 weeks apart
  • Water Basic course - 2 days
  • Breathing Apparatus (BA) Readiness Course - 1 day
  • Initial BA Wearers Course - Two weeks (Monday to Friday)
  • Road Traffice Collisions (RTC) - Training weekend - Done
  • 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.


Please head to our online recruitment portal to view the Stations which are recruiting and to apply for the role.

Please allow 10 working days for a response to your initial application.

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, Eastbourne, Lewes and Crowborough 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  Not currently recruiting  Tuesday - 1845
 Bexhill  Not currently recruiting  Tuesday - 1900
 Broad Oak  All cover considered  Tuesday - 1900
 Burwash  All cover considered  Tuesday - 1900
 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
 Mayfield   All cover considered  Monday - 1900
 Newhaven   All cover considered  Wednesday - 1900
 Pevensey  Not currently recruiting  Monday - 1900
 Rye   Weekday daytime and Weekend cover  Tuesday - 1845
 Seaford   Daytime cover preferred  Wednesday - 1845
 Wadhurst  All cover considered  Monday - 1900
 Uckfield   Weekday daytime and Weekend cover  Monday - 1900

Information pack

RDS Information Pack