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A career change to be the best that you can be

If you crave a physical job, working in a close-knit team and protecting your community then firefighting could be the career change you’ve been looking for.

When applications for wholetime firefighters opened in February 2018 it took less than three hours for 1200 people to apply.

Both Jamie-Louise Newstead and Francesca Jordan were up early and prepared for the rush, both securing a place and ensuring they were just as prepared for each stage of the process.

"It can be stressful but you can train for each stage," said Francesca, who was a personal trainer when she applied and now serves at Grays Fire Station.

"You can find practice tests online, train for the fitness tests and plan for your interview. If you know you can pass each test then it feels like everything is in your hands and the stress is taken away."

Jamie was previously a PE teacher but had always wanted to be a firefighter, and after attending a taster session earlier that year decided that she would continue getting herself ready for the application process.

"I found the taster session really helpful - it gave me a good confidence boost and then my teaching background definitely helped me because things like dealing with and talking to different people gave me life experience."

After passing all elements of the application process Jamie-Louise and Francesca were selected to join the first squad in nine years for a 14 week training course.

Using ECFRS' Service Training Centres across the county the firefighters followed a specialised programme including breathing apparatus training, road traffic collision training, live fire training, decontamination and trauma training.

They also covered theoretical and practical aspects of ladder use, appliance (fire engine) operation, equipment handling and working at height procedures, as well as spending time with the Safer Communities and Technical Fire Safety teams.

"Training was a lot more relaxed that I expected, which is nice - you get the best out of people being like that and as a squad we all gelled really well," said Jamie. 

"The days were long and the first week was daunting as you’ve got to learn but it was nice knowing that we were the first squad in nine years and everyone would be watching us," added Francesca.

Both firefighters passed out from basic training in September 2018.

"Life on station is amazing, it’s like having a second family." said Jamie, who serves at Basildon Fire Station. "In my first week I went to a flat fire in South Woodham Ferrers and an incident at Tilbury Docks."

With fires across the county down 50%, station life isn’t always quite like people imagine, and often firefighters spend more time in the community and training on station than out fighting fires.

"I thought I’d be out all the time but I’m not - it's a really nice environment and most importantly we are still learning and studying because we train on every shift," said Francesca.

With our next wholetime firefighter recruitment process opening later this month prospective applicants can find all the information they need on our dedicated microsite, which is continually updated throughout the application process.

"All of the information provided is really clear and helpful and the new fitness document is also really useful," said Francesca. 

"If you're confident, but also cool, calm and collected then you’ll make a great firefighter. Just be the best that you can be - you can’t do any more than that," added Jamie.


Applications for wholetime firefighters open at 6.30am on Tuesday 16 April and will stay open until 1200 people apply. Visit join.essex-fire.gov.uk/wholetime/ to find out more.

Our wholetime fitness guidance can be found online: join.essex-fire.gov.uk/wholetime/firefighter-fitness/

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