FULLTIME firefighters are being recruited in South Gloucestershire for the first time in eight years.

Applications to join Avon Fire and Rescue Service (AFRS) will be available for aspiring firefighters to download for one week only from Tuesday, May 2 as the service looks for the brightest and best to take part in a training school this October.

Currently 455 ‘wholetime’ firefighters are employed by AFRS, a number which has declined since 2010, with reduced government funding and retirement being the main causes.

Any further reductions in the operational headcount would take the service below its minimum crewing levels, and so Avon Fire Authority recently approved the recruitment of 16 new firefighters.

Under the campaign slogan ‘Yes you can’ AFRS is now working to attract applications from across the region.

Assistant chief fire officer Simon Shilton said: “This is a rare and exciting opportunity to join a fantastic organisation and begin a wonderful career.

“As well as the role played at emergencies, firefighters now have a much broader job, in particular working with people in our communities to reduce the risk of emergencies happening in the first place.

“This is now a role where you can save a life in so many different ways, from helping someone at a road traffic collision or other emergency to providing education in homes, schools and workplaces to keep people safer.”

During the campaign the service will be encouraging applications from groups currently under-represented within the workforce, particularly women and people from Black and Minority Ethnic (BME) backgrounds.

ACFO Shilton added: “We think it’s really important that our workforce is representative of the communities we serve. At the moment only 4.9 per cent of our wholetime firefighters are women and 4.4 per cent from BME backgrounds – both well below the averages in our area.

“We will be taking additional steps to ensure we raise awareness of firefighting as a career among under-represented groups as we want the very best people to be our next generation of firefighters.

“It’s about ensuring the pool of talent we have to choose from is as wide as possible and encouraging people to apply who perhaps never thought a career in the fire and rescue service is for them.”

A South Gloucestershire recruitment awareness event will be taking place on Monday at Mangotsfield Rugby Club from 10am to 7pm to provide the opportunity for women and people from BME backgrounds to learn more about why being a firefighter could be a job for them.

ACFO Shilton said: “The ‘Yes you can’ campaign is aimed at people who have all the physical and personal attributes to be a firefighter, but maybe think they can’t do it – our message is simple, yes you can!

“There are lots of myths about becoming a firefighter. Of course you need to be fit and have good upper body strength, but with training that can be achieved.

“Our role is now much wider than the work we do at emergencies, so we’re also looking for people who are good at solving problems, great communicators and passionate about helping their community to name but a few of the qualities of a modern firefighter.

“Fully qualified firefighters earn £29,000, have the opportunity to learn and be promoted, have amazing variety in their jobs and have the satisfaction of knowing they make a real difference every day.”

To find out more visit www.yesyoucan.careers or watch the recruitment video at www.youtube.com/watch?v=ed_-N6T748