Questions about becoming a firefighter | Oxfordshire County Council

Questions about becoming a firefighter

Common questions about on-call firefighting for Oxfordshire Fire and Rescue.

Click on the questions below.

What does Oxfordshire Fire and Rescue Service do?

We save lives by providing emergency response and safety information services.

As well as responding to incidents like fires and road traffic collisions, we’re spending much more of our time working on reducing the risk of these incidents and loss of life, and working with other public services to keep communities safe and well.

What is the difference between wholetime and on-call firefighters?

Wholetime (full-time) firefighters are permanently based at a fire station on a shift rotation basis and respond to incidents from there. On-call firefighters are not based at a fire station but remain within five minutes of one and respond to incidents in their area when alerted to them.

Why does Oxfordshire need on-call firefighters?

Thankfully there are not enough emergency calls for it to make financial sense to have all fire stations in Oxfordshire permanently staffed. Instead, we use on-call firefighters that can remain close to the fire station and attend incidents when needed. In fact around 60 per cent of our firefighters are on-call rather than full-time.

We need more on-call firefighters to make sure we have enough local cover for every fire station to keep communities, especially those in rural areas, safe. They are efficient, cost-effective and reliable.

If I become an on-call firefighter, can I go on to become a wholetime firefighter?

There have been opportunities in the past for on-call firefighters to become wholetime firefighters. However, this is never a guarantee and we cannot promise that becoming an on-call firefighter is a ‘way in’ to a full-time career. Wholetime recruitment is based only on vacancies becoming available at fire stations that are permanently staffed, and you would need to apply and go through a separate selection process. 

How will I know when to respond to incidents when I am on-call?

You’ll be issued with a pager that you must keep on you at all times when you are on-call. If your assistance is required you will be alerted via your pager and expected to arrive at your fire station within five minutes.

Can I leave my home or place of work while I am on-call?

You must remain within five minutes travel time of your fire station and carry your pager, but you can move around freely and do not need to remain in one place. However there is the ability, if crewing allows, to book off duty if you need to be further away.

Is there an age limit?

On-call firefighters must be 18 when they start training. As the recruitment process can take up to six months, we do accept applications from people aged 17 and a half. However you must have turned 18 before you start training. There is no upper age limit for applying.

How ‘fit’ do I have to be?

Firefighters need to have good levels of fitness including aerobic endurance, muscular endurance, muscular strength and flexibility. We also have recommended programmes for aspiring firefighters that do not feel they have the level of fitness required to achieve the standard required.

I’ve heard that exposure to high temperatures can damage your health. Is this true?

Yes, exposure to heat can be potentially damaging to health.

Our firefighters health and safety is of paramount importance to us and we have control measures in place to reduce heat exposure. These are:

  • limiting the exposure to hot conditions
  • post exposure active cooling
  • regular and effective rehydration


Our firefighters also benefit from:

  • Modern fire kit which is designed to stay cool while protecting from fire.
  • Modern lighter breathing apparatus to reduce exertion and strain on the body.
  • The use of positive pressure ventilation fans to reduce the temperature and remove smoke.
  • Regular training in realistic but controlled conditions at the Fire Service College.
  • Annual fitness tests and regular occupational health assessments.

A recent study by researchers from the University of Edinburgh have added to this this knowledge by demonstrating the direct link between cardiovascular health, and the heat and physical activity levels encountered by firefighters.

We have read this research and are please to say that the authors advocate the control measures we currently have in place. However we will continue to look at ways to improve our equipment and training along with our policies and procedures.

I’m interested but I have a full-time job. How do I work around it?

The skills that on-call firefighters build are attractive to employers and we have a lot of on-call firefighters with flexible employers who will excuse them from work for short periods when they are paged to incidents during working hours.

We have information available for employers where they can find out more about the benefits and commitment required. 

Can I apply if I wear glasses or contact lenses?

Wearing glasses or contact lenses does not necessarily prevent you from becoming an on-call firefighter but we do have visual acuity requirements. You will need to have an eye test before any employment offer can be made.

Are there any height restrictions?

No. There are no height restrictions to joining the Fire and Rescue Service.

What qualifications do I need to apply?

No formal qualifications are required to become an on-call firefighter.

Do I need a driving licence?

No. You do not need a valid driving licence to become an on-call firefighter.

Would I have to make any changes to my personal appearance to become an on-call firefighter?

You will be expected to dress and present yourself in a professional manner when representing Oxfordshire Fire and Rescue Service, and we’ll provide you with a uniform that is appropriate for physical work. We do have a restriction on the facial hair that on-call firefighters may have as there will be times when you need to wear breathing apparatus for work and the seal can be impaired by facial hair such as beards and goatees.

Further information

If you have a question get in touch with us.

Last reviewed
11 July 2017
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