If you picture a police officer in your mind, you can’t do so without envisioning that shiny badge. However, the connection between firefighters and badges is less clear. Do firefighters have badges? If so, what do they mean?
Firefighters have badges that prove they’ve undergone training and are a part of their specific fire department. Badge styles vary depending on the fire station and the role held therein, although badges tend to use similar symbolism.
This succinct article will describe the purpose of firefighting badges and what they mean so that when you finally get your first badge, it will mean that much more!
Table of Contents
What Is a Firefighting Badge?
A firefighting badge is akin to the badge you see affixed to a police officer’s uniform. It’s a symbol a firefighter wears on their gear.
Badges have been in play across fire departments since at least the late 1860s, when Perseverance Hose Company No. 5’s own firefighter, James McGough, received a #95 badge in 1868 in Philadelphia.
By 1898, manufacturer Irvin H. Hahn Co. began producing badges, which tells us that once they appeared on firefighter uniforms, upward mobility continued.
A firefighting badge will feature a scramble, which refers to a collection of visual depictions on the badge. We’ll talk later about the symbolism of firefighting badges, so make sure you don’t miss it!
Why Do Firefighters Wear Badges?
A badge is more than mere uniform decoration. It serves a variety of purposes, so let’s take a closer look.
Although you don’t hear of people impersonating firefighters to nearly the same degree as police officers, it could still happen. Having an official badge tells citizens they can trust the firefighter working hard to protect their homes or building from fire.
Wearing a badge also lends a firefighter more professionalism. It’s a natural inclusion of their uniform.
Badges can signify a firefighter’s rank or position within a fire department. Internally, this can help firefighting staff determine the best person to dole out certain responsibilities or who to report to.
How Do Firefighters Get a Badge?
A firefighter doesn’t simply receive a badge. Here are some criteria they must meet.
A firefighter may receive a badge upon concluding their fire training. The badge will indicate their status as a junior firefighter.
By Being Hired by a Fire Department
Fire departments may have their own specific badges designed inhouse, as we mentioned. The symbolism on the badge is especially important to the firefighters within that station.
All firefighters would receive a badge, although the badges could change depending on the firefighter’s rank.
Rising in the Ranks
Speaking of ranks, as a firefighter climbs the career ladder, they could receive different badges to denote their titles.
For example, fire captains would wear a different badge than the HAZMAT suit handlers, who would have a different badge from investigators who determine what caused a fire.
The Symbolism of a Firefighting Badge
We’ve alluded to the symbolism of firefighting badges enough. Let’s take a closer look at what the symbols that you may see on the badge mean.
The color red is synonymous with firefighters. Fire trucks are red, many firehouses have red brick exteriors, and the hue shows up on firefighter badges.
Red is the color of fire. It also suggests passion and energy, two things firefighters possess in spades.
Further, the color red is urgent and can indicate danger. It’s believed that’s why firetrucks were initially painted red; the hue also made the vehicles impossible to miss on the road.
With no more important color in firefighting, it makes sense to see red on a firefighter’s badge. The color is often used in the background with symbols placed atop it.
Firefighter badges may sometimes feature a horn or bugle. This is sometimes also depicted as a megaphone.
Although it might seem like a random inclusion, the presence of the bugle on a badge is anything but. Before we lived in such a technologically advanced age, firefighters would use a bugle or megaphone to alert other firefighters of a fire in the area.
This predates even radio and is a testament to the efficiency of firefighters.
It’s unsurprising to see an axe on a firefighter’s badge. After all, an axe is a firefighter’s constant companion, allowing them to break down walls and doors to gain entry.
The scramble of the badge will often feature two axes crossed over one another, but some designs have only one axe. The presence of one axe versus two doesn’t necessarily have any special significance.
Instead, the mere presence of the axe indicates a firefighter’s readiness to always jump into action.
The helmet is another common emblem on the scramble. Firefighters always wear helmets, as they’re necessary safety equipment. The scramble might have one helmet or several.
The last common depiction in a firefighting scramble is a fire hydrant. The hydrant is yet another everyday tool firefighters rely on to do their jobs. Usually, the scramble will have one hydrant.
Part of the insignia on a firefighting badge traditionally includes what’s known as the Maltese cross. This symbolism dates back to the Crusades when the Knights of St. John’s were engaged in battle.
The knights would rescue soldiers who were being burned by fire and are regarded informally to be the first firefighters.
The Maltese cross will show up on collar insignias, belt buckles, and firefighting badges as a symbol of sacrifice, heroism, bravery, and citizen service.
However, not all firefighting badges necessarily follow the shape parameters of the Maltese cross. Some are designed with unique shapes to set them apart.
Although not as known for it as police officers, firefighters do wear badges. These badges are assigned to them after completing training and as they achieve more career milestones.
Every fire department’s badges are different, but all share some common threads. For example, the badge will feature a Maltese cross and a scramble with a hydrant, fire helmet, and at least one axe.
The badge may also have depictions of bugles with plenty of red throughout. We hope this article helps you appreciate firefighter badges!