Search

Borough fire chief Rodney Vitalis on growing up in Hackney – and why he chose the brigade over playing for Arsenal

PUBLISHED: 12:00 25 December 2017

Rodney Vitalis (right) collecting his 20 years’ long service and good conduct medal from former London Fire Commissioner Ron Dobson. Picture: London Fire Brigade

Rodney Vitalis (right) collecting his 20 years’ long service and good conduct medal from former London Fire Commissioner Ron Dobson. Picture: London Fire Brigade

LFB

Rodney Vitalis is Hackney’s most senior firefighter. He tells Emma Bartholomew why he didn’t want to join the police – and how he spent a year phoning the fire brigade to ask for a job before anyone picked up

Rodney Vitalis wanted to become a professional footballer before he decided to go into firefighting.

Rodney, Hackney’s interim fire chief, grew up on four different council estates in Hackney and was scouted by Arsenal aged 15.

“I thought I’d made it but it’s quite competitive,” said the 51-year-old father-of-two, whose mum is from St Lucia and dad from Antigua.

He played semi-professionally until he was 26, alongside “odd jobs here and there” – but he wanted to find something that would really challenge him.

“I thought about the army, and I was a bit young,” he said.

“I thought about the ambulance service, and the pay wasn’t great. I thought about the police, but growing up in Hackney it would be a strange career to go into knowing some of the people I was friends with off duty I might have to arrest on duty.”

But he decided the fire service would be perfect.

“It was the excitement of the job – it was sport-oriented, and mentally and physically challenging, and it’s all about team work,” he said.

But it wasn’t plain sailing. He had to phone up the recruitment line every day for a whole year before his perseverance finally paid off and someone answered the phone. He began training in 1995. The first simulated fire he put out was “very hot”.

“It’s a little bit uncomfortable,” he said. “It’s hard to explain. The adrenaline gets going, and that’s when you start relying on your training. It is all about how you manage your emotions and your fears and get the job done.”

But putting out real-life fires was even more taxing.

“You are dealing with stuff that’s not planned,” he said. “It’s very dynamic.

“Going in with good crews, they take you under their wing, and that’s when your training really starts. The more you are exposed to it, the better you are at doing the job.”

Since October 2014 he has been station manager at Shoreditch, Homerton and Stoke Newington, and is hoping his application to be the permanent borough commander for Hackney will be successful.

“I feel privileged to be in the role I’m in,” he said. “Twenty-three years ago, when I applied to join the fire service, I wouldn’t have believed that I’d be in the position I am now. I’m invested in working in Hackney because I grew up here.”

0 comments

Welcome , please leave your message below.

Optional - JPG files only
Optional - MP3 files only
Optional - 3GP, AVI, MOV, MPG or WMV files
Comments

Please log in to leave a comment and share your views with other Hackney Gazette visitors.

We enable people to post comments with the aim of encouraging open debate.

Only people who register and sign up to our terms and conditions can post comments. These terms and conditions explain our house rules and legal guidelines.

Comments are not edited by Hackney Gazette staff prior to publication but may be automatically filtered.

If you have a complaint about a comment please contact us by clicking on the Report This Comment button next to the comment.

Not a member yet?

Register to create your own unique Hackney Gazette account for free.

Signing up is free, quick and easy and offers you the chance to add comments, personalise the site with local information picked just for you, and more.

Sign up now

Latest Hackney Stories

10:00

Arsenal Women ran riot in their last game of the FA Women’s Super League 1 season, racing into a five-goal lead at the break before comprehensively beating Bristol City by a 6-1 margin.

The O’s director of football revealed the club want to extend Bonne’s contract and discussed the future of transfer listed trio Caprice, Scales and Boco

08:00

Middlesex captain Steven Finn paid tribute to the efforts of Paul Stirling following their Royal London One-Day Cup win over Kent.

Yesterday, 23:08

Twenty thousand people defied baking sunshine to race 13 miles around the borough in this morning’s Hackney Half.

Yesterday, 18:20

Paul Stirling equalled his highest score in the Royal London One-day Cup to set up a Middlesex victory as they overcame Kent by 70 runs at Radlett.

Saturday, May 19, 2018

Hydration is often thought about differently from nutrition and carb loading – however, you can be slightly dehydrated over a few days and that will lead to a drop in performance, writes Dalston PT Matt Smith, Fitness First.

Friday, May 18, 2018

Cocaine worth £10,000, £6,000 in cash and £2,000 worth of trainers have been seized from a home in Upper Clapton by the newly-formed violent crime taskforce.

Friday, May 18, 2018

Bloody Lads CC came out on top against Clapton & Oval in their North East London League clash at a damp London Fields.

PROMOTED CONTENT

To celebrate LGBT history month, Hackney resident Amanda talks about her journey to becoming a foster carer, with the council’s support and training.

Education and Training

cover

Read the
Education and Training
e-edition today

Read Now


Newsletter Sign Up

Sign up to receive our regular email newsletter

Most read news

Show Job Lists