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The Brave Men of Cagli

Saraga Piergiorgio is a lifelong resident of Smirra, only five kilometers from the fire station where he works. He has left his hometown region only a few times, always in order to train and take the tests required of Italian firemen.

“I had dreamed of becoming a firefighter ever since I was little boy,” Piergiorgio explained with a dreamy look on his face.

Piergiorgio, one of the 3.2 million active firefighters in Europe, has to navigate the small town roads designed for horse and buggies, not giant fire engines. The fire station in Cagli, a medieval city in the Marche region with about 10,000 people, receives an average of two calls a day, approximately 600 calls per year.

Being a firefighter in a peaceful, quiet town requires patience and passion. There are long spans of time with no work or no time at all in between jobs.

“When we are not out, we watch TV, play pool or cook,” Piergiorgio said. “At one point, one of the firefighters was a well-known cyclist, who would train in the weight room during his free time.”

The services that the 28 professional firefighters provide range from the life-threatening work of rescuing people from burning, smashed up cars to opening locked doors and freeing cats from trees.

Firefighter Giancarlo Caprini noted that the most difficult fires are those that start in the forests.

“A fire in the woods is the biggest challenge because they last long and are difficult to control,” he said.

The Cagli station is responsible for 10 local towns including one town nearly 40 kilometers away. Cagli is the largest town served.

The region originally relied on the fire station in Pesaro, over an hour away.

During the 1930s, as Cagli’s population grew, a local fire station was proposed. The idea was approved by the state, which requires a station in towns with populations that exceed 10,000.

Today, the Cagli fire station has eight fire trucks located in an expansive garage. Each truck is unique and has its own purpose.

The camper is used for overnight trips, sometimes required when the firefighters attend conferences in far away towns.

The largest type of truck contains 3000 liters of water, hoses, a ladder, equipment to fight chemical attacks, and seating and supplies for up to six men. The station has two of these trucks.

Another version of this vehicle can hold up to 6000 liters of water, but this truck is used mainly to transport water to fire scenes.

The sixth truck is for car accidents and is equipped to aid car accident victims and to free them from their vehicles.

The last two cars are normal looking, except for their bright red exteriors. One, made by Land Rover, is used for off-roading. This vehicle is most helpful when travel through the local forests and mountainous regions is necessary. The smallest vehicle of the fleet is used for errands such as grocery shopping.

For the most part, the Cagli fire station is well equipped. However, when larger support is needed, Cagli firemen call the Pesaro station.

Piergiorgio is the capo squadra, or head of his six-man unit in Cagli. He has been a firefighter for almost 30 years and is planning to retire within the next few months. He is hoping to become the captain of the entire fire station as he is interested in spending his remaining months making sure the station is properly run.

Organization is required to operate a fire station effectively. The men spend up to 24 hours at a time at the station. During this time they are responsible for preparing their own food and maintaining the skills they have spent years perfecting.

In order to become an Italian firefighter, applicants must pass an examination. The test is given by the state when more firefighters are needed.

But the firemen spend the majority of their days in the fire station. Occasionally, they use their fire trucks and rescue equipment, but usually they simply wait. They eat, drink, practice and bond with one another.

Piergiorgio feels that strong relationships among the firemen are a key to being successful in the field.

“It is very important to our job that we consider one another family,” he said.





Cagli's finest.




Cagli's station houses a six-man unit.




This local firefighter shows off his unit's uniform.




The station provides a second home to the closely knit firefighters.



Story by Berit Baugher

Photos by Allie Doyle

Video by Taylor Mikolasy

Web Design by Lisa Sepulveda