Stephen Balestrini officially started as a wholetime firefighter at Rugby Fire Station in April at age 32.
The move followed a big decision to change his career from an office job; he explained:
“Everything about the role hugely appealed to me - from working closely within a professional team to the sense of pride that I get serving the Warwickshire community. Being a part of something much bigger than myself is hugely rewarding.”
He shared what an average shift has looked like in his time since joining the service:
“Firstly, we undertake what we call parade at the start of the shift (07:30 for day shift or 19:30 for a night shift). This is when the Watch stands on a crew line in the pump bay to receive the brief and orders of the day from the Officer in Command. We always undertake our critical checks on the appliances, equipment and breathing apparatus sets straight after parade. Following these, we typically head out to the yard for drilling. The types of drill we undertake each shift depend on the drilling themes of the week. For example, if the theme on a particular week is safe working at height, then our drills will involve the use of the various ladders stored on the fire appliances. Following drills, we typically have a short period to rehydrate and receive a debrief from the officer in command and discuss the drill as a crew.”
“Following this, we would normally head out into the community to conduct safe and well checks, business fire safety checks and/or school visits. This is an integral part of our job as firefighters to protect and engage with the community we serve.
“Once we return to the station, we then get out the books and continue to refresh and enhance our skills. We use an online platform that provides reading material and online questionnaires to continually improve our knowledge.
“Of course, all of this is entirely dependent on our operational duties. Our callouts when someone dials 999 are our priority and can happen at any time. If we get a callout, we stop what we are doing and head straight to the appliances and aim to be on the trucks and heading out within 90 seconds.”
When asked about the challenges he has faced so far, Stephen said:
“Because I am new, for each incident I attend there is always a new challenge to overcome. My most recent large fire in the open by a commercial building proved a challenge as all the hydrants on the site had been isolated, which meant a second appliance was required to provide water, highlighting the importance for businesses to ensure hydrants on private land are available for use during an incident.”
As for the most rewarding part:
“For me, it is the fact I am serving my community and making it a safer place to live. I get an enormous sense of fulfilment and pride in what I do each day.
My family are extremely proud of me too – especially my nana!”
Having recently made the decision to become a firefighter and gone through the recruitment process, Stephen gave his views on the most important attributes for those looking to do the same:
“Firstly, having the drive and ambition to undertake the job and the training required is paramount. Having integrity and being able to listen are also fundamental skills for this job. With these skills, you can excel as a firefighter.
“If you’re interested in becoming a firefighter, make sure you research the role and county thoroughly. Visit a local wholetime station to find out more about what’s involved and make sure you would be comfortable undertaking the roles and responsibilities.
“Serving the community is a major part of the job. I would recommend undertaking voluntary work within your local community if this is something they have limited experience with.”
Finally, on teamwork and friendships in the fire & rescue service, Stephen said:
“As firefighters, we all depend on each other. Naturally, you develop strong bonds with the team and you end up forging friendships that will last a lifetime.”
Applications for wholetime firefighters close 22 August 2022.