International Firefighters' Day: History and significance

ST Staff
Monday, 4 May 2020

One of the most significant symbols of International Firefighters' Day is the red and blue ribbon known as IFFD ribbon.

International Firefighters' Day is celebrated worldwide on May 4 to commemorate all firefighters who risk their lives to save millions of people every year.

Firefighters devote their lives to saving our lives and properties. Often this commitment is in the form of countless hours of service over many years, in others, there are several years of selfless work in the industry. At any given situation, it risks the ultimate sacrifice of the life of a firefighter.


In 1999 Firefighters Day became a celebration worldwide.

A catastrophic incident shook the Linton community, Australia and the world on December 2, 1998: firefighters in Linton, about 150 km west of Melbourne city in Victoria, Australia, were battling a massive wildfire and calling for aid.

The crew on the Geelong West tanker - Garry Vredeveldt, Chris Evans, Stuart Davidson, Jason Thomas and Matthew Armstrong, who were part of a strike team volunteered and sent to help extinguish the flames.

When the five, headed out of the fire to replenish their tanker with water, a sudden violent change of wind occurred engulfing the truck in flames and killing all five occupants.

Soon after that horrific incident, a firefighter named JJ Edmondson sent his colleagues an email asking for an international holiday that would celebrate firefighters' sacrifices and triumphs everywhere. JJ setting a New Year resolution for 1999: to create a globally recognized sign of solidarity and gratitude for all firefighters and a date to implement worldwide.


May 4, the date chosen for International Firefighters' Day was linked to St Florian's feast day (the patron saint of all firefighters). St Florian was the first known commander of one Roman Empire firefighting unit.

In Europe, the day is celebrated as 'Fire Service Day' and as St Florian's Day. This day is also recognised worldwide as St Florian's Day and has been a tradition in Europe for over 150 years.


One of the most significant symbols of International Firefighters' Day is the red and blue ribbon known as IFFD ribbon. The colour symbolise the main elements that firefighters work with- red is to represent fire and blue represents water. The two colours are also recognised as an emergency services around the world.

The ribbon is cut precisely to one cm in width and five cm in length, with the top joining the two separate colours.

Usually, the ribbon is placed on a shirt at the fabric fold. It's not exclusive to any certain spot though. One can wear it anywhere they feel appropriate or place them in their vehicles or a tree. Regardless of how you want to put these ribbons, they represent your support for firefighters around the world.

This day is marked by remembering the people who have lost their lives either saving people or properties or battling the fires, and showing respect for those who serve the city so well.

So, go ahead take this day to salute, appreciate and honour all firefighters in our local community -former, current and line of duty death (LODD) firefighters.

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