Sian Nortcliffe - Temporary Crew Manager

Being a firefighter

It isn’t just about whizzing around from one fire to the next. In reality we spend a lot of time in the community, talking to people. So being compassionate and caring is a big part of the role.

A typical day at the station would start with the watch standing on parade where everyone is detailed with the jobs they are doing that day, we also carry out equipment checks, practice drills and work on our fitness levels. A lot of our time is spent carrying out operational training at the station so we are fully prepared for when an incident occurs.


The fire service is really open for progression. Once I became a firefighter I spent twelve weeks at the Training School before starting at the station. My first two years in the job were spent training, getting to know my crew and learning all the skills needed to carry out the job. After two years you can continue as a firefighter or, you can choose to progress into other areas.

I’ve recently progressed into the role as Crew Manager which means I’m still out fighting fires, but leading the crew in a more managerial role.

Work life balance

My current shift pattern works really well for me. I have two young children and the shifts allow me to drop them off at school and day care most days of the week. I also get to spend time with my younger child during the day which means I’m enjoying her growing up whilst enjoying the benefits of working.

SYFR also offer flexible working, so if the current shifts conflict with childcare you can apply to work different patterns to better meet your needs.

Physically challenging

You have to be quite fit to be a firefighter, both physically and mentally to deal with some challenging situations and be ready to tackle whatever the day throws at you. If you’re looking to pursue a 40 year career in the service you need to be prepared to maintain your fitness throughout this time.

Most people consider firefighters to be big, burly blokes carrying women out of burning buildings but this isn’t the case. Yes, we all are quite strong individuals but we have a really strong group of female firefighters in the service. If anyone is considering a career in the fire service but think that fitness is an issue for them, I would encourage anyone to give it a go as anyone can be fit enough.

Claire Duke - Watch Manager

The service

When I joined the service over 23 years ago you never saw any female firefighters. I joined my trainee course with 27 other recruits, all male. However I quickly realised we all had the same skill levels and no one had the advantage over anyone else. After that I settled in really easily and I quickly got over my initial nerves.

Over the years, the number of female firefighters has increased significantly and there’s now a really strong group of women within SYF&R.

Looking for the right career

My favourite aspect about being a firefighter is the variety of work there is to undertake, no two days are the same. You have such a choice of which direction you want to go with your career, whether you want to stay as a firefighter or progress into different areas such as training or community safety work.

After spending 16 years on a station I decided to move into training within the service. I currently work as a General Instructor at the Training and Development Centre. As a team we offer support to the operational firefighters by giving them their ongoing training, particularly around safety.

Joining the family

The watch has a real family feel which makes station life a lot of fun. Because we spend a lot of time together we are a very close-knit group and the friendly environment makes the days really enjoyable.

We rely on each other all the time, particularly when we go out to incidents. We constantly watch each other’s backs, helping each other when we need to. When the job becomes physically demanding, it’s about looking where you can take over and give your colleague chance to recover. Back at the station we support each other which is crucial if you’ve attended a particularly tough incident.

Working with communities

Thankfully the number of incidents firefighters attend are decreasing, but this doesn’t mean there’s time to relax. When we’re not attending incidents we take part in training within the station which can include fitness training and practical training - ladder drills, breathing apparatus drills etc.

Our work within the community forms a big part of our role and we spend a lot of time visiting schools, homes and community events. We also carry out site specific risk assessments for business’ and organisations that deal with hazardous materials or have a lot of people working within the company.

Delroy Galloway - Station Manager

About my work

I’m responsible for planning training activities for the operational and non-operational staff throughout the organisation. It’s a really varied and interesting job, but what I love most about the role is how involved it is across the whole organisation, touching on all other departments across the service. There are opportunities to talk to lots of other people meaning I get to fully understand the structures and how each team operates.


There are lots of opportunities for progression within the service. When I first joined I only ever wanted to be a firefighter, but once I settled into the job I started to look towards the next level. During my career I have progressed from firefighter to leading firefighter to Watch Manager and finally to Station Manager. It’s been a really interesting journey and I’ve still got a bit of time yet so I’m hoping to progress a little bit further.

Planning courses and activities

Part of my role is to put on relevant courses for today’s firefighters to make sure everyone is confident and up-to-date within the training school. Individual stations also put on a lot of activities and we incorporate as much realistic training as possible so everyone is fully prepared when they turn up to a real incident.

Some training is mandatory but there’s a lot of opportunities to pick and choose training you feel will develop you as an individual. There is also the chance to be involved with different staff groups which can be another source of development.

Within the local area

We also do a vast amount of work in the community. We touch on so many areas and that is the great part of the job, we get to help so many people.

Most people will know us from the home safety checks we carry out. We talk people through what’s safe within their home, safe routes of escape and fit free smoke alarms. This is a great way to make links with people within the local area.

We also do lots of work educating children and there’s a whole suite of learning that takes place in schools. We’ve had some great feedback from our sessions, with children passing on their knowledge and educating their parents on fire safety.

Subscribe to SYFR Newsletter