You need to be fit ... but yes you can do it!

You need to be fit ... but yes you can do it!

I thought I was relatively fit and healthy – apart from the odd chippy lunch and packet of crisps – until I joined some of West Yorkshire Fire Service’s female firefighters for a series of physical tests this week, writes Zoe Shackleton.

As part of the fire service’s recruitment push, members of the media were invited to their Birkenshaw headquarters to see what it takes to become a firefighter.

I thought it would be a good morning out of the office – try something new, why not? So I signed up, and found myself being put through my paces on Tuesday morning.

We were shown the ropes by station manager Laura Boocock, who is in charge of training at the Birkenshaw site, and firefighter Rachel Bowen, who has been with the service for 10 years.

It was in the middle of one of the first physical tests of the day that I realised I would need to start going to the gym a lot more if I was to become a firefighter.

Let’s put it this way – I’m better at sitting behind my desk writing stories than I am doing any sort of physical exercise.

But it was fun, and insightful just to experience how tough it actually is if you want to get into this job.

Before any of the physical stuff started, I was kitted out in full firefighter gear – helmet, wellies, the lot. Even that was heavy enough to wear, I couldn’t imagine having to bare the weight of that as well as concentrating on putting out fires and lifting heavy objects on a daily basis.

I then had to go through a timed physical test – which you have to complete in 11mins 11secs – and boy, what a test it was.

It involves carrying kettle bells, unravelling a hose, carrying one in each arm, and dragging a dummy (about the same weight as myself, may I add) whilst wearing breathing apparatus – and that was only 

part of it.

I was able to complete most of the tasks, but there’s no way I could have done it within the time constraints. So, fire helmets off to those who are strong enough to complete it!

Something I was a little better at, if a little apprehensive at first, was the confined spaces challenge.

I was fitted with a respirator with an intentionally fogged-up mask, before being put into a kind of ‘rat run’ and had to feel my way through to the light at the other end, overcoming various obstacles on the way.

It was a fun and testing morning, and I now have even more respect for firefighters than I did before. 

The sheer strength and determination that must take is inspiring, and I would advise anyone considering taking it up as a career to get down the gym before giving it a go – I know I would if could get through at least one of the physical elements!

For now, I think I’ll stick to writing stuff... but for those who think they’ve got what it takes, visit

Share this post