YEP reporter Joseph Keith was invited to West Yorkshire Fire and Rescue Service’s training and awareness day to see what firefighters have to do to make the cut.
They are on call 24 hours a day saving lives and risking their own - and I leapt at the chance to test myself by being put through the same paces as our region’s firefighters.
Already apprehensive on arrival at the launch of West Yorkshire Fire and Rescue Service’s recruitment awareness day, seeing the ladders as tall as buildings and array of apparatus did little to calm my nerves.
And after strapping into my new uniform for the day - firefighter kit complete with hard-hat, boots and fire-proof clothes - I was one of a handful of people paired alongside an experienced officer to help us through the tests.
The challenges were akin to the drills people are asked to overcome during the real recruitment process at the service, which this week launched a drive for applications for the next generation of firefighters.
I had no hesitation taking on the first shuttle weights circuit laid out by instructors on the forecourt at the Birkenshaw headquarters.
The drill included dragging a weighted dummy over distance, running with a tank on my back, pulling a hose and cranking it back, and laps carrying 25kg.
“This will be easy for a man of your size,” one instructor said as I scanned the circuit. It was exhausting.
But there was no respite as I was dusted down and pointed towards my next task of carrying a heavier weight alongside a firefighter.
Still catching my breath, the final challenge lay ahead: climbing three connected ladders to the top of a building.
Petrified of heights, I was felt sick with anticipation of vertigo.
I agreed to at least try and make it half-way. Gruelling left-footed steps followed wobbling rights as I made my way up.
Shaking and frozen in place, I signalled to stop.
But after encouragement by staff and my supporting officer, Station Commander Clare Hesselwood, I faced up my fears and made it to the top.
I’ll always be wary of heights, but to have taken on the training challenges of a firefighter was a truly unique experience.
It is easy to forget that the training tests I took on, however difficult, were just that - training. Firefighters risk their lives every day when called upon, and where I struggled to climb with no real danger, they scale burning buildings without hesitation.
Service launches recruitment for firefighters
Do you have what it takes to be a firefighter in West Yorkshire?
For the first time in more than eight years, West Yorkshire Fire and Rescue Service are recruiting full-time firefighters.
The service has launched a recruitment campaign, Ordinary to Extraordinary, alongside a new website as thousands of applications are expected.
Station Commander Clare Hesselwood, who lives in Leeds, said: “We’re looking for ordinary people in the community to represent the fire service, to do an extraordinary job.
“We’re looking for anyone from all walks of life. As long as they are physically fit and they can fit the criteria, we welcome everybody. One of the reasons why I got into the fire service is that I wanted to help people. If you have those elements we can build on everything else.
“If you think that you have got what it takes then put an application in.
Recruitment, for more than 100 firefighters, stars on March 1 and ends on April 2.
People will have the chance to find out if they are suitable to apply by attending one of a series of awareness days at the service’s headquarters in Birkenshaw and at fire stations around West Yorkshire during March.
They will allow people to try out physical entry tests and speak to firefighters.
For more information, or to submit an application, visit www.joinwyfirefighters.com