History of the Maltese Cross
The badge of a fireman is the Maltese Cross. This Maltese Cross is a
symbol of protection and a badge of honour. Its story is hundreds of years old.
When a courageous band of crusaders known as the Knights of St. John, fought the Saracens for possession of the Holy Land, they encountered a new weapon unknown to European warriors. It was a simple, but a horrible device of war; it wrought excruciating pain and agonizing death upon the brave fighters for the cross. The Saracen's weapon was fire.
As the crusaders advanced on the walls of the city, they were struck by glass bombs containing naphtha. When they became saturated with the highly flammable liquid, the Saracens would hurl a flaming torch into their midst. Hundreds of the knights were burned alive; others risked their lives to save their brothers-in-arms from dying painful, fiery deaths.
Thus, these men became our first firefighters and the first of a long list of courageous firefighters. Their heroic efforts were recognized by fellow crusaders who awarded each here a badge of honour - a cross similar to the one firefighters wear today. Since the Knights of St. John lived for close to four centuries on a little island in the Mediterranean Sea named Malta, the cross came to be known as the Maltese Cross.
The Maltese Cross is a symbol of protection. It means that the firefighter who wears this cross is willing to lay down their life for you just as the crusaders sacrificed their lives for their fellow man so many years ago. The Maltese Cross is a firefighter's badge of honour, signifying that they work in courage - a ladder rung away from death.
When I’m called to duty God,
wherever flames may rage,
give me strength to save a life,
whatever be it’s age;
Help me embrace a little child,
before it is too late,
or save an older person,
from the horror of that fate;
Enable me to be alert,
to hear the weakest shout,
and quickly and efficiently,
put the fire out;
I want to fill my calling,
and give the best in me,
to guard my neighbour,
and their property;
And if according to you will,
I have to lose my life,
bless with your protecting hand,
those I love in life.
What is a “Fire Plug”??
In the 1800’s, some cities had crude water main systems made of wood either on top of the ground, or buried just beneath it. After arriving to a fire, firefighters would dig through the street to the water main and then bore a hole into the wooden pipe. Water would fill the hole and be collected in buckets or by hand pumped fire engines. Once the fire is put out, a wooden plug was driven into the hole to seal the pipe. This is where the term, fire plug originated.
The invention of a post- or pillar-type fire hydrant is generally credited to Frederick Graff Sr., Chief Engineer of the Philadelphia Water Works around the year 1801. It had a combination hose/faucet outlet and was of "wet barrel" design with the valve in the top. It is said that Graff held the first patent for a fire hydrant, but this cannot be verified because the patent office in Washington D.C. caught on fire in 1836 destroying many patent records from that period in the process.
How much does firefighting gear weigh?
Firefighters train extensively in the techniques necessary to extinguish hazardous fires in a wide variety of environments, such as homes, buildings and forested land. The gear that a firefighter may wear includes not only safety and protective clothing but also specialized breathing and rescue equipment. Firefighters need to be fit and in shape, as well, because the gear they don and carry may weigh quite a bit.
The weight of a firefighters gear is spread over a variety of items, including a helmet, boots, coats, pants, gloves and an air pack. Generally, the basic protective gear for a firefighter battling structural and similar blazes is about 75 pounds. The coat and pants weigh approximately 15 pounds each, the air pack is about 32 pounds, leaving the remaining 13 pounds for helmet, boots and gloves. Structural firefighters also typically carry an axe, a radio and a flashlight, and possibly a thermal imaging camera to add an additional 21 to 32 pounds. So, a firefighter could carry the added weight equivalent to five car tires to a fire!!
A smoke jumper is a firefighter who specializes in parachuting into remote areas to combat wildfires. Personal protective equipment and specialized gear for a smoke jumper can weigh up to 115 pounds.
Why do firehouses employ firedogs?
The tradition of having a firedog in service at a firehouse dates back more than a century. With our new fire trucks, dogs
mainly serve as mascots. However, many years ago, they played a very vital role every time firefighters raced to a blaze. Dalmatians were the favourite breed of many firehouses, but there were others that worked just as hard.
At first, firedogs didn’t have anything to do with the firefighters! It all dates back to when fire engines were horse-drawn. It was realized that the Dalmatians would run alongside the horses, keeping pace and even able to sprint long distances. The dogs would defend the horses from attack by other dogs and animals during the emergency.
Dalmatians often ran in pairs, with one dog on either side of the engine or just behind the horses. When a fire alarm sounded, the dogs would run out of the firehouse barking, to let bystanders and pedestrians know to clear the way because the fire wagon would soon be roaring by! Once the wagon is was on the street, the dogs would start their run beside it.
The brave canines also served an important purpose after the fire wagon arrived at the scene. Horses are naturally afraid of fire, and the Dalmatians’ presence would distract and comfort the horses as the pulled closer to the blaze. They stood guard for their equestrian pals, and protect the firefighters’ belongings and equipment.
You would think with the invention of the combustion engine and the new technologies of today, the firedog would no longer be needed by the fire service. Some firehouses however, have kept their furry friends as companions and mascots to keep the tradition alive. They are also helpful at catching and kill rodents that may have taken up residence on the firehouse. Dalmatians also continue to guard the firefighters’ possession and equipment, but instead of running alongside, they now ride in the fire trucks with their firefighter friends!