The History Behind International Firefighters Day May 4
Every year we celebrate International Firefighters Day to remember our fallen brothers and sisters who have given the ultimate sacrifice to protect those who we serve. The history behind this important day dates back to 1999 during a bushfire at Linton in Victoria, Australia when 5 firefighters tragically died while fighting this fire during a rescue mission. This urgent mutual aid call brought the Geelong West Fire Brigade to the scene, not knowing the despair and tragedy that was in store. Garry Vredeveldt, Chris Evans, Stuart Davidson, Jason Thomas, and Matthew Armstrong all loaded into company’s truck. They were part of a strike team and were being sent to help extinguish the flames. As the five headed into the hot zone, the wind suddenly switched direction, engulfing the truck in flames and killing all five members. This unfortunate incident is what inspired JJ Edmondson to bring about an international holiday, called International Firefighters' Day, to support the lives lost and dedicated fire fighters who risk their lives every day to save life and property. From 1999 to 2018 there have been a total of 2061 firefighter line-of-duty deaths.
This year’s International Firefighters’ Day on May 4 comes at a somber time. Many of us are home, finding new ways through everyday life as a collective and increasingly personal sense of grief weighs in. One of the most significant symbols of International Firefighters' Day is the red and blue ribbon. This ribbon is cut precisely five centimeters long and one centimeter wide, with the two separate colors conjoined at the top. JJ Edmondson chose red and blue because the red stood for the element of fire whereas the blue would represent the element of water. Coincidentally, red and blue are also the colors recognized world-wide to signify emergency services; therefore, red and blue being the best choice of color to recognize an international holiday. The ribbon is traditionally worn on the lapel-otherwise known as the fold of fabric on a shirt- but is not limited to that certain spot. Some people may also put it on their cars visors, hats, hang them in windows or off of car mirrors, or even hang them from trees in their front lawn. The places this ribbon can be placed are plentiful- just be creative! The red and blue ribbon is a simple but yet effective way to show support for International Firefighters' Day.
Saint Florian, the patron saint of firefighters, is also another symbolic element to International Firefighters' Day. St. Florian was a patron from Noricum, Rome in 300 AD, who was said to be one of the first commanding fire fighters of an actual battalion. As legend states, St.
Florian saved an entire village engulfed in flames using just a single bucket of water. Legend also states, because of this act St. Florian is known as the protector of those who have come in danger of fire. The duties St. Florian performed for his province are the same duties that fire fighters around the world perform every day—with the same dedication and braveries. On May 4, St. Florian is globally recognized and honored and is also known as the day of St. Florian. Therefore, International Firefighters' Day was chosen to be honored on May 4 in honor of the saint.
Fire prevention and the need for more intensive and thorough training is one of the main aspects of International Firefighters' Day. Firefighters and their agencies around the world are constantly stressing fire prevention: in schools, to the community, at public events, at assemblies and even to their own families. The safest way to keep fire fighters alive and home to their families is training. In many paid fire departments, there is a mandatory amount of required training for each individual to complete within each shift. Unfortunately, it is not the amount you train but how you train. Therefore, training needs to be as intense and realistic as it can be. This ideal is one that International Firefighters' Day stresses. That the need for proper training is one that needs to be met, and therefore IFFD is an opportunity to do exactly this.
New this year, the National Fallen Firefighters Foundation (NFFF) is asking members of the public to light their homes in “red” on May 4-5 to celebrate International Firefighters’ Day. They ask that families share their stories on social media using #ShineYourLight4Firefighters.
Since March 2020, reported from various outlets across the country, over 30 fire and EMS responders have succumbed to COVID-19, NFFF says. Every firefighter who makes the ultimate sacrifice is one too many. Countless others suffer from physical, mental, and emotional injuries. For the NFFF, honoring fallen firefighters, supporting the families of firefighters that died in the line of duty, and preventing line-of-duty deaths and injuries is our daily mission. NFFF knows how far the value of a simple “thank you” stretches for both firefighters and their families.