Tony Malivindi was driving home from work the day it all changed.
He was 45 at the time, a successful manager in the automotive industry with a young family, a good salary and more than 100 staff working for him.
Stopped at traffic lights Tony watched a man in a motorised wheelchair cross the road in front of him. He watched the man bump over potholes and struggle to mount the gutter.
Before the lights changed Tony decided to reinvent his life.
“I was sitting in the car worried about petty work issues and just looked at this guy and thought, he has genuine problems, why am I wasting so much energy worrying about meaningless things,” Mr Malivindi said.
“I realised that the money, the material things, just weren’t making me happy. I wanted to do something that made a genuine difference to other people, to help people who had real problems.”
Tony is now 51, and this June will mark his five year anniversary as a firefighter in Fire & Rescue NSW. Based at Campsie, in Sydney’s south west, Tony said that most days he leaves work knowing that he has made a small difference.
“A few months ago we were called to a unit with a smoke alarm going off. There was not a lot of obvious smoke and the neighbours said the alarm had been going off for a while,” Mr Malivindi said.
“We broke the door down and found a fire in the kitchen and a unit rapidly filling with smoke. I went into the bedroom and found a small boy asleep and grabbed him and carried him outside. The smoke had put him in such a deep sleep he didn’t wake up till we were in the hallway. The other guys found another child and woke the father and managed to get them all out. “
“On days like that you know you have prevented a tragedy. But other days you have just taught some school kids or helped an old lady with her smoke alarm.”
Tony was born in Calabria, Italy, and moved to Australia with his family when he was 18 months old. Both his parents spoke Italian at home and Tony said his language skills have come in handy.
“There have been some occasions when my background has been an advantage, where I have been able to translate instructions to members of the public and make the situation go a little smoother for everyone.”
Tony said he would recommend Fire & Rescue to anyone with courage, determination and a willingness to put others before themselves.