Between 9 and 14 September, Mid and West Wales Fire and Rescue Service (MAWWFRS) will welcome applications for the role of wholetime firefighters.
Whilst information about the recruitment process can be found on their website, click here to visit the wholetime recruitment page, one of their newest firefighters, Sioned Evans, has provided us with an insight into the role.
If you are thinking about applying, we recommend that you read her story…
I have been an on-call firefighter for almost four years by now and I’ve been a wholetime firefighter at Pontardawe for nearly a year and a half and I’m loving every minute.
I have to note though, that you do not need to be an on-call firefighter to apply to become a wholetime firefighter.
When I was growing up, I sometimes used to watch Fireman Sam as a child, but I had no intention to have a career within the Fire and Rescue Service and, after leaving school, I went to university and studied art and graduated with a degree in art and graphics.
During my time as a student, I lived off pot noodles and I gained a bit of weight, so, after graduating, I joined a gym and got fit. Whilst at the gym, my personal trainer asked me if I’d ever considered joining the Fire Service… my answer was no! I thought you’d need a degree as a firefighter or some specific qualification to apply but, having been through the recruitment process himself, he said that wasn’t the case.
So, I decided I would go for it!
The recruitment process involved a series of stages. The online sift stage is first, where you are presented with a series of statements and you must identify which ones you feel more relatable to.
The second stage is an online maths, English and mechanical test. If you pass these, you then progress to a bleep fitness test and an assessment of your physical ability, which includes a ladder lift, crawling through confined spaces, climbing a ladder and assessing if you can cope with heights.
My point of entry day, to assess my physical ability, at Earlswood (MAWWFRS Training Facility) was the most nerve-racking day of my life! There were a lot of noises going around, as it’s a training school, and I was the only girl and the smallest person there. I thought I wasn’t going to pass because there were grown men, who played rugby, that were failing some of the fitness and strength tests. So I thought, well if a big strong man can’t get in there’s no chance I will get in… but I did! I completed the tests within the requirements they were looking for and yes, it was an eye-opener, but I’ve never looked back.
It’s important to stress that men and women must pass the same level of fitness and physical ability. A house fire isn’t going to simmer down just because you’re a woman!
The next stage is an interview. There is loads of information online and in books that you can buy that will help you prepare and structure your answers, but in short, the interview panel want to know about you and how you have contributed within different scenarios, not what other team members have done.
Training to become a firefighter
Once I had secured my place at training school, they took me right back to the basics and gradually built me and the other recruits up, starting with drill yard activities. Drilling is a big part of being a firefighter as it ensures that we stay on top of our training and perform to the best of our abilities in serving and protecting our communities.
Drilling activities include pitching ladders, working as a team, running hoses and learning the words of command – which sound alien at first but they soon become second nature to you. From there, you progress to training with breathing apparatus and fighting fires within buildings, learn how to navigate around buildings safely and how to use technology to help with firefighting activities.
Alongside the physical training, you also get to learn about the science behind firefighting, such as fire behaviour and predicting how an incident is likely to escalate.
But we are about more than just fighting fires at the Fire and Rescue Service. You are also trained to respond to road traffic collisions, animal rescues, water rescues, performing technical rope rescues and dealing with hazardous materials.
What qualities are best suited for a firefighter?
In my opinion, the main qualities that are needed to be a firefighter are the ability to solve problems, be emotionally intelligent, being able to work within a team, adapt to changes and being able to motivate yourself – especially when it comes to maintaining fitness.
It’s important that we have people from a wide range of backgrounds within the Fire Service as it brings a wider range of expertise and experiences to the table when we are trying to solve problems as a team.
Emotional intelligence is so important to identify when someone may need your support, be it a casualty or a colleague following a tough job.
There is no set routine in the day-to-day role of a firefighter and the role itself is constantly evolving. One example of this is how Mid and West Wales Fire and Rescue Service is assisting the Ambulance Service at medical calls and helping local health boards with the roll out of Covid-19 vaccines.
What advice would you give to people thinking about applying?
Quite simply, if it scares you, go for it!
If you have butterflies in your stomach, it shows that you care and if you care enough you will prepare for it.
Don’t wing it during the application process. If you don’t know something, then don’t be afraid to ask, there is no such thing as a stupid question. Your entire career within the Fire Service is about development.
If you feel lost in life, then don’t think this is something that you can’t do. It’s strange to say this, but had I not gone overweight in the first place, I would never have joined the gym to get fit, met my personal trainer and been encouraged by him to join the Fire Service.
I really love my job. It’s rewarding to be able to help people, who are often experiencing the worst day of their lives when we are called to their aid.
There’s also a sense of a second family within the Fire Service. You are often placed in a hard or scary situation with your colleagues, everyone gets scared at some point, but you’re in it together, boy or girl, to help each other out. You would do anything for your colleagues, and they would do anything for you. It’s part of the job to have each other’s back.
Is there an incident that stands out in your mind?
Naturally, there are many incidents that have stayed in my mind for many different reasons, be they being sad, difficult, happy or a job well done.
I remember particularly a water rescue of two boys from a river. They were hanging, for their lives, from a branch within the river. It was a quick snatch rescue and we got there in good time. But the boys’ parents were so thankful and grateful… and I realised, gosh, we’ve just rescued their kids.
We don’t expect a thank you for doing our job, but it is nice when people appreciate the work that you do.
What is next for you in your career?
There are many different career paths within the Fire Service, such as community safety, training and people development, but I’ve definitely found my calling within the operational aspect of the role. I’m currently in the process of applying for an LGV driver’s licence so I can drive the fire appliance, which will present a different pressure and challenge that I want to take on and is another string to my bow.
Possibly, in the future, I would like to apply to become a Crew Manager, which will mean that I would be in charge of the crew at an incident. But for now, I want to have a few more years of experience under my belt as a firefighter.
What do your family and friends think of your job?
Well put it like this, my father cried at my pass-out parade, and in all my 27 years of existence, I have never seen my father cry. That was a really good feeling as I would like to think that, as parents, they could see I was doing what I love doing.
Mid and West Wales Fire and Rescue Service’s Wholetime Firefighter application window opens 9 September 2021.
To attend a Firefighter Taster Day or for further information about a Firefighter Taster Day, phone 01267 226839 or email firstname.lastname@example.org