Firefighters dedicate their lives to the protection of life and property. Sometimes that dedication is in the form of countless hours volunteered over many years, in others it is many selfless years working in the industry. In all cases it risks the ultimate sacrifice of a firefighter’s life.
International Firefighters’ Day is a time where the world’s community can recognize and honor the sacrifices that firefighters make to ensure that their communities and environment are as safe as possible. It is also a day in which current and past firefighters can be thanked for their contributions.
On December 2, 1998, a tragic event shook the Linton Community, Australia and the world. Firefighters in Linton, Australia, a populated region in Victoria, were fighting a large bush fire and called for mutual aid. 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.
“The role of a firefighter in today’s society – be it urban, rural, natural environment, volunteer, career, industrial, defence force, aviation, motor sport, or other is one of dedication, commitment and sacrifice – no matter what country we reside and work in. In the fire service we fight together against one common enemy – fire – no matter what country we come from, what uniform we wear or what language we speak,” wrote Edmondson.
Although organized efforts to fight urban fires have been around for over two millennia, International Firefighters’ Day (IFFD) was first marked on May 4, 1999. It is a day to salute the men and women who help keep us safe, protect our property, our communities, and our wilderness…and to honor the men and women who have given their lives in the line of duty.
On IFFD, every person in the emergency service career gets recognized; hazardous materials specialists, fire prevention specialists, paid firefighters, volunteer firefighters, wildland firefighters, fire fighting heavy equipment operators/mechanics, emergency medical technicians, and many more.
International Firefighters’ Day is observed each year on 4th May. On this date you are invited to remember the past firefighters who have died while serving our community or dedicated their lives to protecting the safety of us all. At the same time, we can show our support and appreciation to the firefighters world wide who continue to protect us so well throughout the year.
Like defence personnel, firefighters are never off duty. After combating a fire, they start preparing for another emergency. They conduct drills and training, clean and maintain their equipment, prepare reports on emergencies and provide public education on fire safety.
By proudly wearing and displaying blue and red ribbons pinned together or by participating in a memorial or recognition event, we can show our gratitude to firefighters everywhere.
The IFFD ribbons are linked to colours symbolic of the main elements firefighters work with – red for fire and blue for water. These colours also are internationally recognised as representing emergency service.
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.