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In the fight against forest fires, both foresight and prevention play a highly significant role, although equally important is the capacity to intervene and optimize the resources employed to implement the active surveillance of woods and forests in Italy.

The forest heritage of Italy is among the most relevant in Europe due to its size and the variety of species, and constitutes an immense source of wealth for the environment and economy of the country, the soil balance and the preservation of biodiversity and the landscape: forests cover roughly 9,800,000 hectares in the Italian peninsula, almost 32% of the country’s whole surface area.

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Despite this, every year – with bewildering punctuality – fires burn thousands of hectares of forest, with devastating consequences for natural balance and extremely long periods of time required for the recovery of the ecosystem.

Over the last 20 years, forest fires have destroyed almost 1,100,000 hectares of forest land, with severe damage due to arson (34% of cases), incorrect behaviour and carelessness.

Even today, despite the effects of a determined awareness campaign, the increase in the number of crimes against the environment and the improved organization of the regional and nationwide firefighting apparatus, risks remain high.

Just in 2014, the national air fleet undertook 1500 missions in response to 749 requests for intervention to extinguish forest fires; 478 calls from Sicily, 93 from Calabria, 76 from Sardinia and 29 from Lazio.

The first “Actively fighting forest fires” course forms part of this picture and contributes great strategic and operational strength. The informative seminar, held from 19 to 22 January, was designed for pilots from the state forest fire fighting fleet and organized by the Civil Protection Department.

The initiative saw the presence of 28 pilots belonging to the National Fire Department, the State Forest Department, the Navy, the Italian Army and Babcock Italia (the company entrusted with the operational management and technical maintenance of the Canadair fleet owned by the Fire Department) and took a closer look at the risk of forest fires from diverse points of view: from current regulations to prevention, from the technical characteristics of the products used in extinguishing fires to firefighting techniques and tactics and in-flight safety. 

The goal was to improve the joint operations of everyone involved by talking about reciprocal problems and analysing certain case studies. The common need to improve the standardization of operations in the future became clear, with special emphasis on the use of an accurate and standardized aeronautical terminology, and improved tactics for the use of airborne means to optimize the resources employed.