International Firefighters’ Day

Every day, firefighters are injured on the job, whether from smoke inhalation, heat exhaustion, or actual burns, all while trying to save people and their precious belongings from fire. Not many people will willingly enter a burning building for any reason, yet firefighters do it every day for little pay and sometimes no recognition. Because it’s not something we’re affected by every day, we tend to forget the sacrifices firefighters make. One man in Australia set out to change that.

Wildfires are common in Australia due to frequent drought and oppressive heat. Yet firefighters continue to risk their lives to fulfill their duties of keeping people and property safe. In 1998, five firefighters died in a horrible wildfire in Lindon, Australia. Afterward, the local community paid tribute to them and the sacrifices they made by wearing red ribbons in their honor. This small gesture was the beginning of what is now observed as International Firefighters’ Day.

The loss of those five men, and the ensuing tribute prompted a volunteer firefighter named JJ Edmondson of Victoria, Australia to begin an online campaign to coordinate international recognition for firefighters around the world. The positive response was overwhelming, and after some discussion, it was decided that International Firefighters’ Day would be observed on May 4 every year.

This date was chosen because it is also the day that celebrates the life of Saint Florian, the patron saint of firefighters, among other things. He stands for selfless dedication to duty and saving lives, the very things today’s firefighters risk their lives for.

Last week, those who want to pay tribute to firefighters wore a blue and red ribbon to honor those firefighters who have been injured, who have given their lives to save others, or who simply take on that risk every single day. Whether or not you observe this international day of recognition and tribute, the bravery and dedication displayed by firefighters everywhere is undeniable.