Case study

London Fire Brigade firefighter — Isabella Ryan

Isabella studied for a BSc in Sport Science at St Mary's University, Twickenham. She now works at Paddington Fire Station as a firefighter with the London Fire Brigade (LFB)

How did you get your job?

I applied through the selection process while still at university. The LFB selection process consisted of online tests and an interview. I was also tested on subjects such as fitness, health and safety, legislation, fire science and the handling of equipment. There was a physical element, as well as medical examinations and I had to supply references.

What's a typical day like as a firefighter?

In this instance it's fair to say that no two days are the same but a typical day usually begins with the team carrying out inventories and standard tests to ensure all our equipment on the appliance is present and working correctly.

At breakfast we prepare food, eat and clean up together before taking part in drills and training exercises. This could involve practical tasks such as putting up a ladder or a theory session to make sure we are up to speed on firefighting techniques. In this job I'm constantly learning and improving my skills.

We might then carry out home fire safety visits (fitting smoke alarms in residential homes), school visits (explaining to pupils what to do in a fire and inspiring future firefighters), or conduct a building inspection.

After lunch there could be a hydrant inspection or building visit, followed by a gym training session. Throughout the day at any point we can get mobilised to a call out. These vary from call to call. Incidents can include fires, flooding, RTCs (road traffic collisions), people locked in or locked out, people shut or trapped in lifts, animal rescues or water rescues.

What do you enjoy about your job?

I love working in a team with different people.

I also love how no day will ever be the same. It is so varied and unpredictable; you never know when you're going to be called out, what the incident is going to be and who you're going to meet.

I like helping people, and it's such a nice feeling to know we have been able to help someone, no matter how small it may have been.

What are the challenges?

In this role we can see some really traumatic things, but everyone looks out for each other and, although I haven't used it yet, it's good to know there's a counselling service available if we need it.

In what way is your degree relevant?

My degree is not relevant as such, but I do use the knowledge gained to aid my own, and my colleagues, physical training. This job is very physically demanding and it is of utmost importance to stay in shape.

How has your role developed?

Prior to becoming a firefighter I was involved with the LFB through the Fire Cadets scheme. I was a volunteer fire cadet instructor at Ilford and Wembley Fire Stations and I still do this now, but as an operational firefighter. While at university I then went on to become an education officer for the LFB, which involved going into schools to carry out fire safety presentations.

During my two years and seven months in the job I have completed my development phase and am now a fully competent firefighter. I was stationed at Feltham Fire Station for just over two years, and then got a short detachment to Soho Fire Station to enhance my development. I'm now stationed at Paddington Fire Station. This movement has allowed me to experience different types of firefighting.

In terms of career ambitions, I'd like to complete specialist qualifications to enable me to become the best firefighter I can be. Once I feel I have enough experience I will go for promotion and work my way through the ranks.

How do I get a job with the London Fire Brigade?

Register your interest and find out about application requirements by visiting LFB - firefighting careers. By registering on the site, you can be notified via newsletter when recruitment starts. You have to wait for a recruitment campaign to open in order to apply, and then go through the selection process.

Get in touch with outreach@london-fire.gov.uk to book onto an open day and to try out the physical tests to see what the selection process is like.

If you are not successful the first time do not give up. This job really is the best job in the world.

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