Our Symbols and Their History
The badge of a firefighter is the Maltese Cross, which is a symbol of protection, and a badge of honor. It dates to the days of the Crusades, when Christian Knights fought the Saracens for possession of the Holy Land. During these battles a frightening weapon was used against the heavily armored warriors, fire.
As the Crusaders advanced upon the walls of a city, they were struck by glass bombs containing Naphtha. When the liquid penetrated the knight’s armor, the Saracens hurled a flaming torch into their midst. Hundreds of the knights were burned alive and many others risked their lives to save their comrades in arms. Fellow crusaders recognized the efforts of those knights who rescued others from the fire by awarding each hero a special cross as a badge of honor.
This cross had eight points to its construction and had as its origin the Beatitudes. Since many of these heroes were members of the Knights of St. John, whose headquarters where on the island of Malta, the cross these men wore became to be called the Maltese Cross.
If you will look in the Bible at Matthew 5: 1-12 you will find the meaning of the Maltese Cross. As in days of old, the Maltese Cross is a symbol of protection. It means that the firefighter who wears the cross is willing to lay down his or her life for you, just as the Crusaders sacrificed their lives for their fellow man so many centuries ago. The Maltese Cross is a firefighter’s badge of honor, signifying that he or she works in courage - a ladder rung away from death.
"Many people associate the Dalmatian breed with firefighters and fire trucks. The Dalmatian is a hardy dog known for speed and endurance which probably originated in Dalmatia, a province of Austria, on the eastern shore of the coast of Venice in what is now Italy. Statues, engravings, paintings, and writings of antiquity have been used to claim that this spotted dog first appeared in either Europe, or Asia, or Africa, but without proving the point.
Perhaps some of the problem about the original home of the Dalmatian can be accounted for by the fact that the dog was frequently part of gypsy bands, and like them, he was well known but had no sure origin. The breed’s activities have been as varied as its roots. It has been employed during wars as a sentinel on the borders of Dalmatia and Croatia. Used as draft dog, and a shepherd, this breed also excels when sent to kill rats and vermin. It is well known for heroic performances as a fire-apparatus follower and fire-house mascot.
As a sporting dog it has been used as bird dog, retriever, or in packs for boar or stag hunting. A retentive memory made it one of the most dependable clown dogs in circuses and on the stage. Down through the years the intelligence and willingness of the Dalmatian have found the breed in practically every role to which work dogs are assigned.
The use of the breed as a coaching dog may even go back to the days of the Pharaohs. For centuries the breed has been used with ears entirely cropped away and padlocked brass collar, as follower and guardian of horse-drawn vehicles. It was this that brought the Dalmatian to the fire house as the dog that would clear the way ahead of or around the horse-drawn apparatus. The breed’s build blends speed and endurance. Its gait has beauty of motion and swiftness, and strength. The Dalmatian has vitality and fortitude to keep going until the alarm’s end.
Since the breed has a natural instinct for coaching, Dalmatians and horses have a natural affinity. The dog traditionally worked clearing the path before fire apparatus during the horse-drawn era. They frequently ran under the rear axle, the front axle, or, most difficult of all, under the pole between the lead or following horses and chase off other dogs or animals that would bother the horses, thus speeding the apparatus to an alarm. To this day the breed remains the only recognized carriage dog in the world. His love for working (and firehouses) is his most renowned characteristic, but it in no way does it eclipse the breed’s renown for friendship. That is the reason that the Dalmatian found employment in, and now is part of the tradition of the fire service."