5 Facts about Fire Department Badges and Their Symbolism

Every law enforcement badge is rich in history, unique facts, and symbolism. A fire department badge is one of the most unique badges currently worn by law enforcement and first responders today with symbolism dating back decades. Any fire department insignia, from IAFF belt buckles to seals and collar pins, is built on the same symbolism — to respond in an emergency and protect citizens when in need. Firefighters are most often considered the “bravest” of the first responders, and as such, they wear fire department insignia that represents their heroism, sacrifice, and bravery.

Check out these unique facts about the fire department badge and other insignia, and how it represents a firefighter’s history, legacy, bravery, and sacrifice in the line of duty.

1) What the Maltese Cross on a Fire Department Badge Represents

A-802The Maltese Cross is often depicted on most firefighter insignia. The Maltese Cross on a firefighter’s badge symbolizes the Knights of St. John’s and their battles during the Crusades. Fire was a new weapon to be used at that time, and the knights rescued their fellow soldiers who were being burned — the first firefighters, you could say, to rush into danger to help others.

The Maltese Cross is still a strong symbol used on almost every firefighter badge. You can find it as a part of IAFF belt buckles, collar insignia, and others. This is because it represents a loyalty to serve citizens who are caught in a fire, and a willingness to sacrifice personal safety to do so. When you see someone wearing a Maltese Cross, you know they would put their own life in jeopardy to save others.

2) Why Firefighter Symbols on Fire Department Insignia is So Important

2V-AXE-FCS, Fire Department Badges and SymbolismAnother staple of most firefighter seals is firefighter symbols: the fire hydrant, ladder, ax, hats, and other representations. These are referred to as the scramble, and they vary from department to department. Besides the very literal translation of tools that firefighters use to do their jobs, the scramble represents a dedication to always be prepared.

CD-2X-AXE, Fire Department Badges and SymbolismSometimes you will find firefighter insignia that only depicts one of these items — the ladder, hat, ax, or hydrant. This is still a representation of the scramble and the promise to be prepared to go on a moment’s notice. Firefighters have to be ready to go instantly, since a fire can have catastrophic consequences in mere minutes. Those tools you see are not just images, but a promise to be ready whenever needed. These are found on collar insignias, IAFF belt buckles, fire department seals, badges, and more.

3) What a Bugle (Horn) Means on a Fire Department Seal

A-14, Fire Department Badges and SymbolismDo you often see a megaphone or horn on fire department seals or other fire department badges? This is because, before radios, bugles were how orders were given and announcements about fires conveyed. The leader of the fire department would use the megaphone to alert the firefighters, and they would speed off as soon as possible to help.

Nowadays, the bugle symbol is on fire department insignia for firefighter leaders. Its primary symbolism is on leadership and acting in a way that others can follow. When you see a bugle or megaphone on a fire department badge, it may mean that that particular firefighter has served in a leadership role within their jurisdiction.

4) The Color Red on an IAFF Belt Buckle

H-T-FCSEveryone knows that red is related to firefighters — it’s found in the brick construction of the firehouse, it’s the color of the trucks, and it’s often the secondary color on a fire department badge. The color red is related to fire departments both for its symbolism and its hue.

Red symbolizes the color of fire, representing the job that firefighters do. Red is also a notable and eye-catching color. In the early years of firefighter house construction, red was used on the trucks because it was known to be the best color to alert people of an incoming, speeding firetruck. Nowadays, that symbolism and necessity still stands.

5) Fire Department Badges Indicate Protection in a Time of Need

A-51AP, Fire Department Badges and SymbolismOut of all law enforcement professionals, firefighters are the only ones who can enter the home of citizens without a warrant or express permission. This is because firefighters arrive on the scene during dangerous times, and citizens trust firefighters to protect them, their families, and their homes, when in need.

No matter what a fire department badge is made of or if it shows a shield with a scramble or a Maltese Cross, it symbolizes first responders who will protect and secure a location, no matter what it takes. When you see someone with fire department insignia, you know you can trust them, and you should show them respect for their sacrifice, hard work, and duty.

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