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International Firefighters' Day

On December 2, 1998, in the town of Linton, in Victoria, Australia, firefighters battled a wild bushfire. The local firefighters called for assistance, and among those who heeded the call were five firefighters from the Geelong West Fire Brigade. After a violent wind change, their tanker was overcome with flames and they lost their lives.

In the wake of the disaster, JJ Edmondson, a volunteer lieutenant and firefighter also based in Victoria, Australia, set her sights on a New Year's resolution for 1999: to organize an internationally-recognized holiday of support and respect for firefighters. She proposed the day with an email, in which she suggested May 4th as the date of observance and the use of red and blue ribbons as part of it. She asked recipients of the email to copy and forward it to those who could help promote the day.

International Firefighters' Day was first held on May 4, 1999. May 4th was chosen because St. Florian is the patron saint of firefighters, and the feast day of St. Florian, known as St. Florian's Day, takes place on the date. St. Florian was one of the first commanders of a firefighting squad in the Roman Empire. International Firefighters' Day can be considered to be a separate holiday from St. Florian's Day, but it can also be known as St. Florian's Day. In Europe, International Firefighters' Day is also known as Day of Fire Service.

Firefighters protect life and property, risking their own lives as they do so. Some volunteer many hours of their time to the work, while others dedicate their lives to it as a career. On International Firefighters' Day, the sacrifices of firefighters to keep their communities safe are honored and recognized the world over. Current and former firefighters are thanked, and firefighters who died in the line of service are remembered.

Thanks and remembrance are paid in a number of ways. Memorial and recognition events are held, as are festivals, fundraisers, and presentations. Open houses take place at fire stations. Blue and red ribbons are worn together, the red symbolizing fire and the blue symbolizing water. Not only are these colors fitting because they represent the two colors firefighters work with, but they also represent emergency service around the world. In conjunction with International Firefighters' Day, a "Sound Off" is held at noon on the first Sunday in May. Sirens are sounded for 30 seconds and are followed by a minute of silence for fallen firefighters.

How to Observe International Firefighters' Day

Spend the day showing support for firefighters and remembering those who have been lost. Some ideas for observing the day include:

  • Wear red and blue ribbons. Not only can they be worn on a uniform or lapel, but they can be put on trees, mailboxes, cars, and other locations where they will be easily seen. The ribbons could also be sold, with the funds raised going to support firefighters.
  • Display an International Firefighters' Day banner on your website or attach it to your emails.
  • Attend or organize a memorial or recognition event.
  • Attend or organize a festival or picnic where funds are raised for firefighters.
  • Attend or organize a parade that honors firefighters.
  • If you are a firefighter, host an open house at your fire station or be a guest speaker at an event.
  • Follow the day's official Twitter and Facebook pages.
  • Take part in a "Sound Off" on the first Sunday in May.

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