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All Fire Service staff start as firefighters and some make this rank their career. Others choose to become an officer after six years' service.

Each year up to 48 people are trained in the station officer role. These station officers play an important role in the operational response and station management of the Fire Service. Station management includes staff management, training, skill and equipment maintenance and crew development.

Operational functions include fire prevention and fire-safety activities, strategy and tactics for a wide range of emergencies and command and control functions for emergencies.

Firefighters wanting to become station managers complete an 18-month distance learning portion and then consolidate their skills and are assessed during a two-week practical course at the Queensland Fire and Rescue Service training site at Whyte Island, Brisbane.

The site is set up for live burning and the course is a series of fire scenarios where the students are assessed on their command and control abilities, including strategy and tactics, crew management and crew safety.

Once training is done they can apply for the position of station manager where a vacancy exists and, if successful, will be given officer ranking.

I joined the Fire Service because I wanted a purposeful job that had lots of variation, with physical and intellectual demands and a job where I was working in a team.

I started the theory side of my training almost five years ago. At the time I was stationed at a relatively quiet station and I guess I was looking at a new challenge. The practical training came a few years later, I was fortunate enough to have a really motivated officer. He valued progression and encouraged me loads.

If it wasn't for his patience and enthusiasm I may never had made that leap - I was lucky our paths crossed.

I completed my firefighter training in September 2001 and my officer training in 2008. I applied (unsuccessfully) for a station officer position in 2009, but was successful 15 months later and promoted to the rank just over six months ago. I guess, like all things worth achieving, it was not a linear path. In December I completed specialist training on our new Haz Mat/Command Unit vehicles.

Our eight-day roster means we work two days, two nights and then have four days off. Our day shifts are 10 hours and our nights are 14. We have four shift crews/roster crews. Red watch city is definitely the best.

There is no normal shift in the Fire Service; the job involves a huge amount of variation and lots of adaptation. As an operational staff member of any rank you need to be prepared for fires, motor vehicle accidents, floods, the effects of adverse weather, technical rescues, chemical spills, crime scenes, school visits, training on station, day-to-day admin and lots of equipment checking and maintenance.

When you complete your three-month recruits' course at the start of your career, you really know only the basics ... experience has and will always count for a lot in this job.

I probably didn't appreciate how valued we are by the community before I joined. I am continuously humbled by all the kind letters, gestures and tins of home baking we receive from grateful "customers".

Katie was selected for this role after going through the recruitment and application process and passing the practical, physical, interview and medical tests.

The Fire Service officer training is fabulous. It develops people's inherent and natural leadership skills. We teach people how to communicate and get the best out of people.

Every organisation needs good leaders and managers. At times our officers need to deliver clear orders at a fire or rescue incidents and at times we need our officers to negotiate and generate a positive environment and a safe workplace.

When we recruit we look for some of those qualities so we can build on them; plus the Fire Service has values which include serving our communities, integrity, adaptability, skill and comradeship.

It's very important to be resourceful in this job, to be able to talk to people - and teamwork is just essential. Lots of the firefighters and officers engage with the community and deliver the "fire safe" message.

Other important qualities include integrity and honesty. At times in your career you will need to be reliant on your partner and your team. Working in that close environment on a day-to-day basis requires special skills.

Station officer
New Zealand Fire Service Station Officer Training Contact: National Training, Level M, Central Fire Station, 36 Oriental Parade, Wellington; fire.org.nz.
Where: Eighteen months' distance training plus two-week course at the Brisbane fire service's live fire-training site.

Dates: Vary.

Prerequisites: Five years' experience as a firefighter, plus completing and passing the station officer distance learning package plus approval from area manager to attend the course.

Length of training: Two weeks after 18 months' distance learning. There is no cost to employees.

Numbers on course: 12.

Employment outcomes: Able to apply for station officer positions. Further progression includes senior station officer, then executive officer positions.

The employer

Steve Lakin, Assistant Area Commander, Auckland City Fire Area

The officer

Katie Pocock, 32

Station Officer Red Watch, Auckland City

Starting salary for station officers: $59,000