Firefighter Funeral Etiquette

Firefighters observe a number of traditions in funerals for their fallen brethren
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Firefighting, rich in history and tradition, extends its history to a firefighter's funeral, especially for a firefighter who dies in the line of duty. The National Volunteer Fire Council notes that while each company has its own traditions, the funeral for a firefighter is marked by a number of standard rituals.

1 Uniform

The funeral detail for both a formal and a semiformal funeral should be outfitted in Class A uniforms. Class A uniforms are composed of department-issue navy blue coats, dress shirts, slacks, belt, and tie. The only exception to this is for pallbearers and for members of the color guard. In all cases, firefighters should be sure to coordinate their outfits. In the event of a nonformal or a private service, the entire department as a unit should wear either uniforms or civilian clothes.

2 Ranks

Traditionally, in a formal or semi-formal funeral, the department will enter the church or funeral home together and sit together once the service has started. Department members should stand according to rank, with senior officers on the inside. Attendees should be seated in the following order: fire chief; union president; international principal officer; local union officials; deceased's company; delegation of department's chief officers; members of department; and members of other fire departments.

3 Removing Cover

Firefighters in Class A uniform often wonder when to remove their hat during a funeral service. For all officers not in the color guard or serving as a pallbearer, the firefighter's department-issue hat -- sometimes called the firefighter's "cover" -- should be removed when entering a building, including the church in the which the service is being held. However, when offering a salute, the hat should be temporarily replaced, as it is improper to offer a salute without wearing his cover.

4 Decorations

Deaths of department members are often commemorated by placing flags at half-staff. At fire stations, the flag should run at half-staff from the date of the death until 30 days have elapsed. In additional, funeral bunting, if used, should remain on the station and the union hall for this same time period. Badge covers should also be placed on each member’s badge for 30 days from the time of notification of the death.

5 Bell Ceremony & The Fireman's Prayer

Many firefighter funerals close with a bell ceremony and a reading of a prayer. In the ceremony, a bell is rung three times, as was traditionally done to signal the end of an alarm. In this case, the ringing signals the end of the deceased's duties. It is also traditional to have a member of the fire service read "The Fireman's Prayer."

Based in New York City, Joseph Eliot has been a writer since 2007. He holds a master's degree in journalism, with a focus on cultural reporting.