Corps of Firefighters of the Vatican City State
|Corpo dei vigili del fuoco dello Stato della Città del Vaticano|
|Address||Courtyard of the Belvedere|
00120 Vatican City
|Fire chief||Domenico Giani|
|Fire captain||Paolo de Angelis|
|Facilities and equipment|
|Stations||1 (Belvedere Courtyard)|
|Tenders||2 (tow truck, jeep)|
The Corps of Firefighters of the Vatican City State (Italian: Corpo dei vigili del fuoco dello Stato della Città del Vaticano) is the fire brigade of the Vatican City State. It was founded in its present form by Pope Pius XII in 1941, although its origins are much older.
The patron saints of the Corps are Pope Leo IV, to whom tradition attributes the miraculous extinction of a fire in the Borgo district (event represented by Raphael's fresco of the Fire in the Borgo) and Saint Barbara, also the patron saint of firefighters in Italy. The anniversary of the celebration of the Corps is on 4 December.
From at least 1820, the military corps of the Papal States included a uniformed and armed fire fighting service, the Guardie dei Fuoco, whose elaborate uniforms are represented in pictures of the era preserved in the vatican archives. Although officially part of the armed forces, by the early twentieth century they had become solely engaged in fire fighting and civil defence.
In 1941 Pope Pius XII refounded the service as the Corps of Firefighters of the Vatican City State. It initially consisted of 10 sections trained at firefighting schools in Rome. The Corps was entrusted with the protection of Saint Anthony's Abbot and was seated in the Apostolic Palace, with entry from the courtyard of the Belvedere, where it is still today.
In 2002, following a reform carried out by Pope John Paul II, the body moved from the dependencies of the Directorate of Technical Services of the Governorate to the Directorate of Civil Protection and Security Services, which also covers the Corps of Gendarmerie of Vatican City.
Politically, the Vatican fire brigade has been under the control of the Directorate for Security Services and Civil Defence, since this body was legally established on 16 July 2002. The Directorate is a division of the Governorate of Vatican City State. The Directorate for Security Services and Civil Defence is responsible not only for the Vatican fire brigade, but also for the Corps of Gendarmerie of Vatican City, and for liaison with the Pontifical Swiss Guard, the military force of the Holy See. As with all Vatican City State forces, the Pope is the head of state and chief commander of the Corps, and takes a direct interest in its operation.
Duties and operations
In 1941 the Corps of Firefighters of the Vatican City State consisted of just 10 firefighters. The modern service has expanded three-fold, with a current deployment of 30 firefighters. They work in a rotating shift pattern, with three eight-hour shifts in each day. Fire Brigade Headquarters is located at Belvedere Courtyard, a central location within the Vatican City State. Belvedere Courtyard is also the only operational fire station of the Corps.
Although the small size of the Vatican City makes dangerous fires a rare occurrence, the Corps is turned out, on average, more than once every day, to respond to demands for their varied skills in relation to first aid, civil defence, rescue, flood control, or simply the movement of vehicles, or provision of lifting or moving equipment. The Corps also has some more unusual duties, including a minor ceremonial role within the state, and also responsibility for the erection and safe operation of the famous chimney over the Sistine Chapel through which black or white smoke indicates (respectively) the non-election or election of a new pope during a papal conclave.
The Corps of Firefighters of the Vatican City State is a modern and well-equipped national fire brigade, whose members wear protective fire-fighting uniform and helmets. They are equipped to deal with a range of fire-fighting, rescue, first aid, and civil defence scenarios. Their key equipment is a fleet of emergency vehicles, as below. All fire appliances (apart from the aerial hydraulic platform) utilise vehicle types capable of negotiating narrow streets and locations with cramped or difficult access. The principal fire tender (an Iveco Daily Magirus) and rescue tender (a Mercedes-Benz Sprinter) have specially narrow bodies to facilitate access.
Front line emergency appliances
- Iveco Daily Magirus Falcon 1000 fire tender
- Mercedes-Benz Econic aerial hydraulic platform tender
- Mercedes-Benz Sprinter rescue tender
- Land Rover 110 4-wheel drive fire tender
- Fiat Campagnola general purpose appliance (still technically in service)
- AAS, Suppl. 73 (2002), n. 9, pp. 33-49, art.13 (pag. 884), 16 July 2002
- Law n. CCCLXXXIV referenced here on the vatican State Government website.
- See entry at G Catholic.
- Text of an address given by the Pope to the firefighters of Vatican City State on 11 January 2013.
- See report at Supercars website.