The Vigili del Fuoco (VVF) responds to every type of emergency call at both a national and local level: they are responsible for co-ordinating aerial firefighting operations and responding to large-scale natural disasters such as earthquakes, floods, and landslides, countless road traffic collisions, industrial and agricultural accidents. They are also specialized in combatting the risks of using nuclear energy and the use of bacteriological, chemical and radiological substances.
To respond to such a wide spectrum of emergencies, the VVF is dispersed throughout Italy, with permanent detachments and barracks. Supporting these units, the VVF established specialized departments and crews, which have specific personnel who are trained for each type of incident, and are equipped with a wide range of motor vehicles to operate on land, in water and from the air. One of them is the Servizio Aereo – Air Service – with headquarters at Rome-Ciampino Airport and 15 nuclei (helicopter units), which cover the entire Italian territory.
Several models constitute the helicopter fleet: the Erickson S-64F (used mainly for forest firefighting), some old AB-206s used for training, as well as AW-109E and AB-412 allocated to different units. The latest additions are 15 new AW139s, two of which were delivered in 2019. The Nucleo Elicotteri Bologna was the first to receive the new machine and is in charge of large part of the training courses that must be undertaken.
All images © Dino Marcellino / Operazioni Volo
At the moment, crews (a VVF standard crew consist of a pilot, co-pilot, technical / hoist operator and two helicopter rescuers), are concentrating on their transition from old helicopters models (AB-412 and AW-109) to the new. In addition, other specialized personnel, such as VVF divers, have to be trained on the new machine.
The courses focus on the implementation of all possible operative manoeuvres, in and around the machine, in any environment, from mountains to sea: hoist operations, human external cargo, long-line, firefighting, and rescue operations with divers.