Fire Department Traditions
Oct 04, 2009

 The tradition of bagpipes played at fire department and police department funerals in North America goes back over one hundred fifty years. When the Irish and Scottish immigrated to the United States and Canada, they brought many of their traditions with them. One of these was the bagpipe, often played at Celtic weddings, funerals and ceilis (dances). 

It wasn't until the great potato famine and massive Irish immigration to the East Coast of the United States that the tradition of the pipes really took hold in the fire department. In the 1800's, Irish immigrants faced massive discrimination. Factories and shops had signs reading "NINA" - No Irish Need Apply. The only jobs they could get were the ones no one else wanted - jobs that were dirty, dangerous, or both - firefighters and police officers. It was not an uncommon event to have several firefighters killed at a working fire. The Irish firefighters' funerals were typical of all Irish funerals - the pipes were played. It was somehow okay for a hardened firefighter to cry at the sound of pipes when his dignity would not let him weep for a fallen comrade.

Those who have been to funerals when bagpipes play know how haunting and mournful the sound of the pipes can be. Before too long, families and friends of non-Irish firefighters began asking for the piper to play for these fallen heroes. The pipes add a special air and dignity to the solemn occasion.

Associated with cities such as Boston, New York, Philadelphia, and Chicago, pipe bands representing both fire and police often have more than 60 uniformed playing members. They are also traditionally known as Emerald Societies after Ireland - the Emerald Isle. Many bands wear traditional Scottish dress while others wear the simpler Irish uniform. All members wear the kilt and tunic, whether it is a Scottish clan tartan or Irish single color kilt.

Today, the tradition is universal and not just for the Irish or Scottish. The pipes have come to be a distinguishing feature of a fallen hero's funeral.

Oct 04, 2009

IAFF Maltese Cross 

The eight point Maltese Cross is the international symbol of the fire service’s willingness to make great sacrifices in order to protect others from the ravages of fire. The Maltese Cross is a symbol of protection and a badge of honour. Its story is hundreds of years old.
When a courageous band of crusaders known as the knights of St. John fought the Saracens for possession of the holy land, they encountered a new weapon unknown to European warriors. It was a simple, but a horrible device of war; it brought excruciating pain and agonizing death upon the brave fighters for the cross. The Saracen’s weapon was fire. 
As the crusaders advanced on the walls of the city, glass bombs containing naphtha struck them. When they became saturated with the highly flammable liquid, the Saracens hurled a flaming torch into their midst. Hundreds of the knights were burned alive; others risked their lives to save their brothers-in-arms from dying painful, fiery deaths. 
Thus, these men became our first firemen and the first of a long list of courageous firefighters. Their heroic efforts were recognized by fellow crusaders who awarded each with a badge of honour – a cross, similar to the one worn by firefighters today. Since the Knights of St. John lived for close to four centuries on a little island in the Mediterranean Sea named Malta, the cross came to be known as the Maltese Cross. 
The Maltese Cross is the symbol of protection. It means that the firefighter who wears this cross is willing to lay down his life, just as the crusaders sacrificed their lives for their fellow man so many years ago. The Maltese Cross is a firefighters badge of honour signifying that he works in courage – a ladder rung away from death.

Oct 04, 2009
Reprinted from May/June 1992 issues of Reminisce Magazine
Ever see a fire truck in a parade without a Dalmatian in the seat up front or in the lap of a smiling fireman riding in back? Ever visit a firehouse without having one of those black and white spotted dogs come wagging up to you? 
Why is that? Why do Dalmations and firehouses go together like smoke and fire? The answer is interesting, and one you'll likely recall every time you see the Dalmation/firehouse combo from now on. 
It all began in the days of stagecoaches. Horse theft was so common back then that many stagecoach drivers strung a hammock between two stalls at night, then slept behind their horses to guard against thieves. 
But, if the driver owned a Dalmatian, he could sleep in the house or the stagecoach hotel. Why? Because it was observed that Dalmatians formed an amazingly tight bond with horses. When they became close as with a team, no stranger would dare lay a hand on them. 
Once the knowledge of this trait spread, more coach drivers went to great lengths to get Dalmatians to watch their teams. In fact, this practice became so common that Dalmatians were first called "coach dogs". They were used by coach drivers centuries ago in England, Scotland and Wales.

Horse's Best Friend? 
"Dalmatians have always gotten along well with horses," says Esmeralda Treen of Milwaukee, Wisconsin, a recognized authority on the breed. "Horses are gregarious and feel the need for company. You can't leave them alone too long. Dalmatians take to horses and become 'companions'. Back in the stagecoach days, the 'Dals' would run alongside the coaches, or under the rear axle of the moving coach. They'd keep up with the team as far as it ran, sometimes over 20 or 30 miles a day. 
"When the coaches reached the inn, the coachman left the dog to guard the team as well as luggage in the coach," Esmeralda explains. "IF the coachman stayed to guard, a robber would sometimes distract him in conversation while others pilfered the goods. They couldn't pull that ruse on the Dal, since they're very alert dogs." 
When horse numbers grew here in the New World, the number of Dalmatians grew with it for the same reason they were popular in the Old Country. And, since every firehouse back then had a set of fast horses to pull the pumper wagon, it became common for each group of firemen to keep a Dalmatian. 
Again, the spotted dogs not only guarded the firehouse horses, they kept them company during their long, boring waits between fires. And, when they took off for a fire, the dog would run alongside the pumper. 
The horses are gone from the fire stations today, but the Dalmatians aren't. The tradition has been carried on, and it may be as much for the looks and appeal of these beautiful dogs as it is for their nostalgic tie to yesteryear. 
While all the facts are well founded, there is a common but false rumor that these spotted dogs that breed enthusiasts would like dispelled. It's that Dalmatians are kept at firehouses because they're deaf and therefore, the siren does not bother their ears nor make them "spook" like it would other dogs. 
"I once heard that on national TV and could not believe my ears," says Chris Benoit, president of the Chicagoland Dalmatian Club. "It's true that there is a problem with deafness in the breed, but that story is totally false!" 
What is true is that Dalmatians are the fastest growing breed of dog in America today. A relative rarity until recent years, Dals are expected to soar into the top ten soon, right up there with beagles and dachshunds. 
Spots in Fashion 
Another thing that's true is that these dogs have spots everywhere--even inside their mouths and on the bottom of their paws! And they've become the polka dot darlings of advertising and fashion photographers, who say they like the high contrast of these black and white dogs. 
Still, the Dalmatians haven't lost their old status as the fireman's friend. For example, in Middletown Connecticut alone, individual fire fighters own Dals named "Hydrant", "Chief", and "Cinder". 
That tradition holds across America. Even today, where there's smoke, there's likely fire...and where there's a firehouse, there's likely a Dalmatian.

Oct 04, 2009

The Firefighters Prayer

When I’m called to duty God wherever flames may rage, give me strength to save a life whatever be it’s age

Help me to embrace a little child before it is too late or save an older person from the horror of that fate

Enable me to be alert to hear the weakest shout and quickly and efficiently to put the fire out

I want to fill my calling and to give the best in me, to guard my neighbour and protect his property

And if according to your will I have to lose my life, bless with your protecting hand my children and my wife.


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