International Firefighters' Day
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International Firefighters' Day (IFFD) is observed on May 4. It was instituted after proposal emailed out across the world on January 4, 1999 due to the deaths of five firefighters in tragic circumstances in a wildfire in Australia. May 4 used to be a traditional Firefighters' Day in many European countries, because it is the day of Saint Florian, patron saint of firefighters.
On December 2, 1998, a tragic event shook the Linton Community, Australia and the world. Firefighters in Linton, Australia- a populated region in Victoria- were fighting a large wild fire and called for mutual aid. This urgent mutual aid call brought the Geelong West Fire Brigade to the scene not knowing the despair and tragedy that was in store. Garry Vredeveldt, Chris Evans, Stuart Davidson, Jason Thomas, and Matthew Armstrong all loaded into company’s truck. They were part of a strike team and were being sent to help extinguish the flames. As the five headed into the hot zone, the wind suddenly switched direction, engulfing the truck in flames and killing all five members. This unfortunate incident is what inspired JJ Edmondson to bring about an international holiday, called International Fire Fighters Day, to support the lives lost and dedicated fire fighters who risk their lives every day to save life and property.
One of the most significant symbols of International Fire Fighters Day is the red and blue ribbon. This ribbon is cut precisely five centimeters long and one centimeter wide, with the two separate colors conjoined at the top. JJ Edmonson chose red and blue because the red stood for the element of fire whereas the blue would represent the element of water. Coincidently, red and blue are also the colors recognized world-wide to signify emergency services; therefore, red and blue being the best choice of color to recognize an international holiday. The ribbon is traditionally worn on the lapel-otherwise known as the fold of fabric on a shirt- but is not limited to that certain spot. Some people may also put it on their cars visors, hats, hang them in windows or off of car mirrors, or even hang them from trees in the their front lawn. The places this ribbon can be placed are plentiful- just be creative! The red and blue ribbon is a simple but yet effective way to show support for International Fire Fighters Day.
Saint Florian, the patron saint of Firefighters, is also another symbolic element to International Fire Fighters Day. St. Florian was a patron from Noricum, Rome in three hundred A.D., who was said to be one of the first commanding fire fighters of an actual battalion. As legend states, St.Florian saved an entire village engulfed in flames using just a single bucket of water. Legend also states, because of this act St.Florian is known as the protector of those who have come in danger of fire. The duties St. Florian performed for his province are the same duties that fire fighters around the world perform everyday-with the same dedication and braveries. On May 4, St. Florian is globally recognized and honored and is also known as the day of St.Florian. Therefore, International Fire Fighters Day was chosen to be honored on May 4 in honor of the saint.
The Need For Training
Fire prevention and the need for more intensive and thorough training is one of the main aspects of International Fire Fighters Day. Fire fighters and their agencies around the world are constantly stressing fire prevention: in schools, to the community, at public events, at assemblies and even to their own families. The safest way to keep fire fighters alive and home to their families is training. In many paid fire departments, there is a mandatory amount of required training for each individual to complete within each shift. Unfortunately, it is not the amount you train but how you train. Therefore, training needs to be as intense and realistic as it can be. This ideal is one that International Fire Fighters Day stresses. That the need for proper training is one that needs to be met, and therefore IFFD is an opportunity to do exactly this.
In 2009, 90 line of duties deaths were recorded amongst fire fighters in the United States of America; 47 being volunteers, 36 being careers, and 7 being a part of a wild land agency. In 2009, 16 firefighters passed in trying to fight wild land fires- which is how the five men from Linton died. Not only fire-fighters die because of fires. In 2009, a total of 3,010 civilians died as fire as the cause. There was also a calculated 1.3 million fires that occurred in 2009 which resulted in $12.5 billion in direct property loss. In 2009, there were a total of 78,792 wildfires which burnt down an estimate of 5,921,786 acres (23,964.62 km2). Although most would believe in line of duty deaths would be the number one cause of deaths to fire-fighters, heart attack is the most common. Even though International Fire Fighters Day stresses those who died in the line of duty, it is also to remember the others who gave their time as well.
The Fire Service
Although International Firefighters Day originated from the deaths of five wild land fire fighters, they are not the only aspect of the service recognized. On IFFD, every person in the emergency service career gets recognized; Hazardous Materials Specialists, Fire Prevention Specialists, paid firefighters, volunteer fire fighters, wild land fire fighters, heavy equipment operators/mechanics, Emergency Medical Technicians,and many more. Some of these jobs may seem insignificant; however, without all sectors of the emergency department services working together one would not hold up without the other; therefore, resulting in International Fire Fighters Day to be a time to celebrate everyone who serves in the emergency services.
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