Saluting First Responders – Why We Fly the Firefighter Flag

First responders are among the bravest people in the workforce. They put their lives on the line to rescue and save the lives of others. Firefighters are among the many other first responders who risk their lives every day they are on the job. They work 24-hour shifts and, sometimes, take up to ten calls a day to protect their communities and the people who live in them.

We fly the firefighter flag in tribute to these brave men and women who help keep us safe.

Benjamin Franklin in fireman uniform

A Bit of History

“An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.” These were the words of Benjamin Franklin in 1736 after he organized our first firefighting service.

Benjamin Franklin moved to Boston during a time when the city was experiencing major fires. During this period, the city administrators had appointed citizens to the “Rattle Watch.” The men chosen for this watch volunteered to roam the streets of the city and, if a fire was spotted, they would spin their wooden rattles alerting the residents, and they would direct the responding citizens to form a bucket brigade.

In 1678, the first fire engine company came into service and, in 1736, Benjamin Franklin established Philadelphia’s Union Fire Company. It was the first organized volunteer firefighting service in the nation and has since been servicing its citizens for more than 265 years.

Going back even further, there is evidence of organized firefighting all the way back to ancient Egypt. There is also evidence that fire-fighting machinery, such as a hand operated water pump, poles, hooks, and ballistae to tear down buildings, were used in Ancient Rome under the rule of Augustus. A group was assigned to patrol the streets of Rome to watch for fires.

Modern Firefighters

Today, firefighters are both volunteer and paid responders. The urban areas are usually served by well-organized paid firefighters. Though there is no requirement for the use of paid or volunteer firefighters, there is often a mix of both in most communities and, when there is an overwhelming demand for manpower due to multiple emergencies, both will respond.

Firefighters put the lives of others before their own and are often the unsung heroes. It has been said that they “were just doing their job;” however, they were doing a job that could sacrifice their life and well-being, in addition to that of their family and friends, to save the life of an unknown person. It is not just a job. It is a dangerous commitment.

 

Ocean City Firefighter Memorial

Firefighters Memorial

Over the past three decades, more than four thousand firefighters have died doing their job. Every day, these heroes gamble with the risk of losing their lives to save the lives of others. When a catastrophe, whether it is a natural catastrophe or man-made, most people run away from it. Firefighters run to it.

We are very aware of specific dates when firefighters were called in and lives were lost: April 19, 1995 – The Oklahoma City Bombing; September 11, 2001 – The Twin Towers; August 29, 2005 – Hurricane Katrina’s destruction devastating Lousiana; May 22, 2011 – The Joplin EF5 Tornado; April 15, 2013 – The Boston Marathon Bombings; June 30, 2013 – The Arizona Wildfires.

When a firefighter dies in the line of duty, it is an unfortunate tragedy that evokes many emotions. Not only do the family and close friends of the fallen firefighter grieve, but the entire service and the community grieves.

Sentiments are often displayed in a tribute associated with remembering the firefighter, and flags are flown at half-staff.

On October 16, 2001, President George W. Bush spoke at the 20th Annual National Fallen Firefighters Memorial Tribute and approved legislation requiring the American flag to be lowered to half-staff on all Federal buildings to remember fallen firefighters. Now, Public Law 107-51 requires lowering the flag to half-staff to occur annually in conjunction with the observance of National Fallen Firefighters Memorial Service.

9/11 memorial flag to firefighters and police killed

Flags and Paying Tribute

Flags are among the most important parts of a tribute. They have been around for thousands of years. Initially used as military banners, they signified leadership, who was on the battlefield, identity of friend or enemy, and surrender.

Now, flags are much more commonly used as symbols of countries, states, organizations, and provinces. They are also used for signaling, such as from one ship to another or on a football field; for decoration, such as the flags hung for the holidays; and they are used for a display, such as those for fallen veterans, first responders, and firefighters.

When we learn of the death of a firefighter in the line of duty, we feel the pain, compassion, and grief for our fallen first responder. We pay tribute by flying the firefighter mourning flag in remembrance of the brave men and women who served their communities by working in the first responder services.

What better way to honor the brave men and women who are first responders and firefighters and remember those who have paid the ultimate sacrifice than to fly The Firefighter Flag? We want our firefighters and first responders to know that their services do not go unrecognized.

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