Nine new on-call firefighters have joined West Sussex Fire and Rescue Service following a passing out parade at Worthing Fire Station.
The new recruits were put through their paces in front of family and friends before being presented with their certificates by Jon Simpson, area manager for response.
Robert Austin and Joel Northam are now based at Steyning, Dom Walheim at Shoreham, Lucy Stout at Haywards Heath, Thomas Jackson at East Preston, Chris Relf at East Wittering, Kerrie Sutton at Lancing, Galo David Choez Loor at Chichester and Jason Roe at Billingshurst.
Many of them have full-time jobs but can be paged at any time of the day to respond to an emergency situation.
For Kerrie Sutton, who works for Sanctuary Housing Association, it is a dream come true.
She said: “It is always something I wanted to do when I was younger but life took a different direction for me, so it wasn’t something I was able to do.
“I saw an advert in a local parish newspaper and I thought, well why not? I am just going to go for it and here I am.
“I love being part of something and I feel like I am part of a family and a community. You only live once, so you may as well give it a go.”
The course marked a return to the fire service for Chris Relf, who works at West Sussex Alternative Provisions College in North Mundham and has previously served at Bosham Fire Station.
He said: “The best thing is the camaraderie, we are all in it together. Having done it before I would definitely advise anyone to give it a go. Everyone looks out for each other and you get to do some really, really interesting things.”
Lucy Stout, a professional detail car valeter, has always dreamed of being a firefighter but feared she did not have enough self-confidence.
She said: “I knew if I didn’t believe in myself I wouldn’t get there, so I believed in myself and here I am.
“It is literally the best thing I have ever done, everyone is really friendly and they all want to help you out - they want you to pass. The hose running was hard but it was fun and there was a lot of encouragement from the team.”
Galo David Choez Loor lives in Chichester and works at a coffee shop in the city.
He said: “I love helping people, that was one of my main incentives for doing this.
“I would encourage anyone who wants to become an on-call firefighter to do so. It is a hard course but it is really rewarding, and it gives you real skills for life, you study and work with people from different backgrounds so you get to meet a lot of different people.”
The new recruits had to pass an intensive two-week course and feedback from the lead instructors was excellent.
Mr Simpson said: “We wish them all the very best of luck and know that they are going to make a real difference to the communities they will serve. I would like to thank all of the instructors who have worked extremely hard to train and support our new firefighters.”
West Sussex Fire and Rescue Service is currently recruiting retained firefighters across the county. Visit www.westsussex.gov.uk/fire for more information.