Stepping up to new role

Cheyenne Salucci, the Narrandera station’s first female firefighter. Photo: Kim Woods.

Narrandera Fire + Rescue NSW has welcomed to its ranks of firefighters the first woman in more than 100 years of operation.

Cheyenne Salucci, 20, completed her education at Narrandera High School and works at the Narrandera Hospital as an assistant.

As a child, Ms Salucci had always had a goal of becoming a firefighter and was quick to apply when a vacancy became available at Narrandera’s Station 400.

She saw it as an opportunity to give back to her local community and has already attended a shed fire and motor vehicle accident.

Cheyenne joins the regional brigades of Leeton and Griffith to have female firefighters.

Station commander Captain Neal Tait said the appointment was in line with Fire and Rescue NSW’s increase in recruitment of female firefighters across the state.

“We are now seeing females starting to pick up the previously male dominated workforce,” he said. “All our recruits complete Phase 1 and Phase 2 fire-fighter training held over two four-day blocks, about six weeks apart.

“Cheyenne recently attended training at Wellington (NSW) – other training centres are at Hume, ACT, and Albion Park, Sydney.”

Capt Tait said the Narrandera station had 15 staff with a vacancy waiting to be filled.

“We are looking for someone who is community minded, loves working in a team environment and challenges, and wants to keep fit,” he said. “That person must be over 18 years of age and an Australian citizen.

“Everyone working here has primary employment and are on a retainer, on call 24/7 using a roster based system. Not everyone is always available but as long as we maintain a minimum crew managed by myself.

“Everyone carries a phone and a pager, allowing them to respond from their workplace or home.”

Capt Tait said there had been 35 incident calls for the year to date in Narrandera.

“Last year we hit the 115 mark – we average 90 to 110 calls a year,” he said. “Our jurisdication is the immediate town environs but we can get called to other towns or states for bushfires, or out the highway for motor vehicle accidents and hazardous material spills.”

Ms Salucci said her training so far had covered the use of breathing apparatus, hoses and establishing boundaries.

“Cheyenne will spend a few months riding side-by-side on the truck, wear breathing apparatus and use the hose so she is a fully operational firefighter under the guidance of a peer-support person,” Capt Tait said.

He encouraged other local women to step up and apply for the vacancy at the station.

“I’m pretty excited and aim to give it all a go,” Ms Salucci said.

She said her employer was understanding when it came to her new fire-fighting role.

Capt Tait said the organisation had been renamed from NSW Fire Brigade to Fire and Rescue NSW, followed by a more recent rebadging of Fire + Rescue NSW.

He said Fire + Rescue NSW was picking up incidents once covered by volunteer agencies, including the SES and VRA, in small communities.

“Our guarantee to the Narrandera community is we will respond within seven to 10 minutes of a call,” Capt Tait said. “We do more than just fires – hazmat, prevention, education, counter-terrorism, medical response, natural disasters and humanitarian relief.

“Considering we are on the junction of two highways, we have been lucky and haven’t had many major incidents this year.

“We encourage people to use the Emergency+ phone app which uses GPS functionality to provide crucial location details.

“Winter time has been good in Narrandera this year with no chimney or house fires.”

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