On-call firefighter recruitment

This page provides information about the recruitment process for on-call (retained) firefighters.

Complete the following form to register your interest. Following the completion of the form, your information will be reviewed and a member of Northumberland Fire & Rescue Service will contact you to discuss how to progress. Good luck!

On-Call Firefighter Enquiry Form 
Most fire stations are empty until there is a ‘shout’. Firefighters will make their way from their home or work to the stations and respond to the incident. These are called On-Call firefighters. 

On-Call firefighters book themselves as available to respond to an incident. This means that you can combine working for the fire service with your career or personal circumstances. 

On-Call Firefighters are trained professionals working to the same high standards as Full Time Firefighters and will train to attend the full range of incidents including fires, floods, road traffic collisions, chemical spills and more, where all crews work alongside each other. 

Of course, you also get paid – as a rough guide when fully competent, you can expect to earn on average £8,000 per annum. 

Firefighting involves much more than putting out fires. We play a crucial role in: 

  • Educating drivers to prevent accidents and injuries; 

  • Rescuing people from road traffic collisions; 

  • Keeping our communities safe from fire and other dangers with Safe & Wellbeing Visits; 

  • Supporting the Ambulance Service with medical emergencies; 

  • Educating children in road and fire safety through school visits and community events; 

  • Rescuing people from fast flowing water and protecting properties from flood damage; 

  • Making people safer in their places of work by advising business owners on fire safety regulations; 

  • Rescuing people from height and confined spaces; 

  • Providing specialist animal rescue services; 

  • And of course, responding to fires. 

We currently have On-Call (aka Retained) Fire Stations in the following locations: 

  • Allendale, 
  • Alnwick 
  • Amble 
  • Belford 
  • Bellingham 
  • Berwick 
  • Haltwhistle 
  • Hexham 
  • Pesgwood 
  • Ponteland 
  • Prudhoe 
  • Rothbury 
  • Seahouses 
  • Wooler 

Map of Northumberland Fire and Rescue locations around Northumberland
It’s quite flexible – usually you have to be available to respond for 50-120 hours a week.

This doesn't mean you are working for 50-120 hours - you just need to be available if we need you.

Some stations are busier than others but on average you can expect to be called out twice during the day, once in the evening and three times overnight on an average month, with incidents lasting an hour on average. You will also attend drill training sessions once a week for 2 hours. During these sessions you will train with the team and undertake equipment maintenance. 
Find out how suited you might be to an On-Call Firefighter role by answering the following questions. If you can answer yes to all of them, and have good examples to back up your answers, then a career as a firefighter might well be for you.

  • Can you respond to your local fire Northumberland Fire station within 8 minutes of being alerted? 
  • Are you genuinely interested in people? 
  • Can you get on with people from different backgrounds and cultures? 
  • Have you worked as part of a close-knit team?
  • Can you work under pressure without letting the rest of your team down? 
  • Can you think on your feet and solve problems when you know a lot depends on the suggestions you come up with? 
  • Do you have the sensitivity to deal with members of the public when they are distressed, confused or being obstructive? 
  • Can you take responsibility for representing the fire service when you are at work, and when you are not? 
  • Are you prepared for the demands of working in a disciplined uniformed service in which you will have to take orders from other people? 
  • Are you committed to maintaining your physical fitness? 
  • Are you prepared to work days and nights, including evenings, weekends and public holidays? 
  • Are you someone who can always be relied on to be somewhere on time? 
  • Are you someone who others see as dependable? 
  • Are you prepared to work outside for several hours in all types of weather? 
  • Are you over 17 years and 6 months of age? 
  • Do you have a full UK drivers licence? 

The wide range of incidents we respond to require highly trained, highly performing teams with a mix of skills, knowledge, personal qualities, backgrounds and experience. The communities we serve can be as diverse as the situations we tackle and knowing and understanding those communities is an essential part of the job.  

We want to ensure that our workforce reflects both the community and the mix of skills and qualities required to do the job. We particularly welcome applications from women as they are under-represented in our operational service. We also welcome applications from people who are Black, Asian or minority ethnic as they are also under-represented in our workforce. 

We run on-call firefighter recruitment courses twice per year. These courses usually take place in March and October. In order to be eligible for these, you must pass the following process which can take a number of months, so an early application is advisable: 

At this stage you will register your interest and your eligibility will be checked. 

On-Call Firefighter Enquiry Form 

If you are eligible to progress, an application form will be sent to you for completion. 

These tests are designed to assess your level of fitness, strength and manual dexterity as well as your level of confidence in simulated exercises.  

  •  The ladder climb - this tests your confidence for working at height and while not physically demanding can be challenging.  
  • The equipment assembly test - this tests manual dexterity and the ability to follow instruction.  
  • Ladder lift - the ladder lift test simulates the individual physical demands of lifting and lowering the head of a 13.5 meter ladder back on top of a fire appliance. A total load of approximately 30kg, lifted to a height of 1.90m is required to successfully complete this test.  
  • Equipment carry test - the equipment carry test is essentially a shuttle test that will test your levels of aerobic endurance, muscular strength and muscular endurance. It is designed to replicate some of the physical demands involved in setting up a water relay station to supply water to a grassland fire. The test is performed back and forth along a 25 meter shuttle whilst wearing full firefighter personal protective equipment. 
  • Confined Space/BA test - this is more a test of your ability to cope with dark and confined spaces and has only low to moderate physical demands, although good levels of flexibility and body awareness will be an advantage. Full instruction is given on the day and you will be provided with fire service protective clothing to wear. During the day you will have your uniform/ PPE measurements taken, for the purposes of ordering kit later. These tests will be conducted at SHQ. Full instruction is given on the day. 
  • Casulty evaculation
  • Bleep test
  • Excersies you can do that will help prepare you

The written tests are as follows:  

  • Understanding information - assesses an applicant's ability to read and understand written information.  
  • Working with numbers - assesses an applicant's ability to understand and work with numerical information.  
  • Problem solving and situational awareness - assesses an applicant's ability to ensure the safety of themselves and others and their ability to use information to solve problems. 

Examples can be seen here Firefighter ability tests: preparation and practice booklet 

If successful at the practical assessment, you will be invited to interview. This will be a behavioural interview, meaning that the questions asked are focused on your past experiences. The interview panel will consist of two or three members of staff and you will be asked questions relating to your skills and personal attributes to determine your suitability for the role of a firefighter. 

A fitness assessment will be carried out by the fitness adviser. Here you will be asked to take a gas analysis assessment. The VO2 max test will consist of a maximal exercise test on a treadmill. The procedure that will be adopted utilises a walking speed and increments in gradient. This is a proven cardio pulmonary assessment for measuring aerobic capacity. 

The following links provides a video of the test – Chester Walk Test 

At this stage you will be invited to attend our Occupational Health Centre for a medical and fitness assessment. The medical currently includes:  

  • Height 
  • Weight 
  • Blood pressure 
  • Lung function 
  • Urinalysis (urine tested for various abnormalities) 
  • Eye test - near and distance vision (with and without spectacles if worn), colour blindness 
  • Breathing test (lung function)  
  • Hearing test (audiometry)  
  • Grip strength 

You will be asked questions about your health and any disabilities or medical needs you may have.  

We receive many enquiries regarding current and/or past medical issues and cannot give definitive guidance regarding these issues as consultation between service doctors and GP's will decide if an applicant is suitable to carry out the role of a firefighter and it should be understood that all cases will be viewed individually.  

In line with the Data Protection Act, we do not divulge any medical information to anyone outside of occupational health without your written consent.  

Firefighter eyesight requirements  

As we get older our eyesight deteriorates. Firefighters require a certain level of eyesight to enable them to carry out their role. With this natural deterioration it stands to reason that firefighters must meet the required standard of vision when applying to join the fire service.   

You should provide two references on your application form, one personal and one business, the latter of which should be your current or most recent employer. 

To complete the Disclosure and Barring Service checks, i.e. the criminal records check, you will be asked to complete a form which is then sent to the Disclouse and Barring Service. You will be sent the results which you will need to present to the Service at the earliest opportunity.  

Following successful completion of all the stages, you will be issued a contract of employment and a start date for your initial training.

Why wait! Apply now to be an on-call firefighter: On-Call Firefighter Enquiry Form  

As a trainee On-Call firefighter on the Retained Duty System (RDS) you will initially be placed on the trainee rate of pay. 

Upon completion of your training course, your pay will increase to the development rate until you have completed your development phase and are deemed competent. You will then be paid at the appropriate competent rate of pay. The retaining fee is for staff offering full cover (120 hours). Part cover staff are paid 75% of the full cover retaining fee.

On-Call Firefighter Rates of Pay 

Retaining Fee (£) (Annual) 

Hourly Rate (£) 

Disturbance Fee (£) 

Turn Out Fee (£) - First Hour 

Drill Night (£) 



















The retaining fee is divided into 12 monthly payments and paid by direct credit to your bank account or building society account. This is the fee for being ‘on-call’ whilst at home or at work in your primary employment. 

The hourly rates above are paid when you are at work for us, either on a fire call, training course or a drill night, including your initial training. You can expect to earn £8,000 on average per year within Northumberland Fire & Rescue Service. 

Forthcoming test and courses dates will appear here once available.

  Course 22/2022 
Course 23/2022 
Application window  1 May 2021 - 31 October 2021 1 November 2021 – 10 June 2022 
Applications close  31 October 2021 Friday 10 June 2022
Practical selection tests  2, 6, 11 November 2021  9, 11, 18 June 2022 
Written selection tests  WC 15 November 2021  WC 27 June 2022 
Formal Interview  WC 6 December 2021  WC 11 July 2022
Medical Assessments  January 2022 August 2022
Offer / Pre employment checks  December - January 2021/22  August – September 2022 
Admin date  Saturday 5 February 2022 Saturday 10 September 2022
Initial Course -  2 Weeks  Monday 7 - Saturday 19 February 2022 Monday 12 - Saturday 24 September 2022
Breathing Apparatus Course - 2 Weeks  Monday 7 March - Friday 18 March 2022 Monday 10 October - Friday 21 October 2022