Each year on May 4, the world pays tribute to firefighters by asking citizens to pin blue and red ribbons on their lapels, to their car aerials, hanging them on windows or use them to decorate trees in celebration of International Firefighters’ Day (IFD). Red and blue are the international colors that represent an emergency service.

IFD was the brainchild of JJ Edmondson, a volunteer firefighter in the Clyde-Cardinia Fire Brigade in the Country Fire Authority (CFA) of Victoria, Australia. Following the death of five fellow-firefighters while on duty trying to save life and property in Lindon in 1998, members of the CFA and the residents of Victoria wore red ribbons to pay tribute to these firefighters for their selfless sacrifice.

This gesture inspired JJ Edmondson to solicit support through the Internet for an internationally coordinated event and symbol to recognize firefighters. He received tremendous response. Thereafter, advice and suggestions were sought from the international community and it was later agreed that a universal observance of IFD should take place on May 4 of each year.

May 4 was chosen to coincide with the traditional celebration of the day of Saint Florian, the first recorded commander of a fire fighting squadron in the Roman Province of Noricum in Circa 300AD. Legend has it that Florian saved a whole village from burning with a single bucket of water. Saint Florian is believed to be the protector of those in danger of fire. He also became the patron saint of Poland and his icon stands in the Fire Brigade Museum in Vienna. His selfless dedication to saving lives is reflective of the same values and beliefs that firefighters who willingly risk their lives espouse to save and protect members of the community.

IFD serves as a venue to create fire awareness; simulations allow members of a community to make an escape through smoke-filled rooms and maneuver their way through fire safety obstacle course or take part in hose demonstrations. It is a day when people across the globe unite to pay respect and support for fighters. A "Sound Off" has become a traditional feature of the celebration; fire stations set off their sirens at noon (local time) for a 30-second tribute. This is followed by a moment of silence to pay respects for all firefighters who perished in the line of duty.

In many countries of the world, memorial services are also held, exhibits are mounted, fundraising campaign are launched, long service presentations and talks from guest speakers are hosted, and fun competitions like bucket races are held.

Firefighters are regarded as one of the top five public service professionals.

They are held in high esteem worldwide. As we mark this year’s International Firefighters’ Day, let us pay tribute to our firefighters worldwide who brave the dangers in order to save life and property. Let us also remember and offer prayers for those who perished while performing their duty. And to show our highest regard for their profession, let us do our part and exert conscious effort to prevent fires in our homes and communities.

Source: Manila Bulletin Publishing Corporation, Philippines.