A Firefighter’s Funeral

by MSO
Crossed ladders with US flag for firefighter's funeral

A last call is often read out over the emergency radio at the funeral. Whispery static and resounding beeps accompany the call that goes unanswered.

The funeral of a firefighter is about honoring the contribution and showing gratitude and respect for a fallen hero. When a firefighter dies their family is not left alone to plan the funeral. Most fire departments have people to assist the family with grief counseling and help make arrangements for the funeral. Often times the fire department will have a tradition they follow when one of their own dies. Families have the right to plan the funeral based on their own religious beliefs, while still keeping in mind the tradition of firefighters. The family gets to decide details such as, if the casket will be open, who the pallbearers will be or what funeral home they will be using.

The police department will assist with the firefighter’s funeral procession. They arrange a traffic route for the funeral procession, lead the procession, and provide traffic control. One of the most recognized firefighter funeral traditions are the playing of bagpipes. The tradition of having bagpipes at firefighter’s funerals goes back to the 1800s. Irish and Scottish immigrants were generally forced to take the difficult and dangerous jobs that nobody else wanted, which at that time happened to be fighting fires. Those Irish and Scottish firefighters’ funerals had the typical bagpipes playing and the tradition has held since.

A fellow firefighter or police officer is chosen to stand guard at the entrance of the funeral. The honor guard wears their dress blues, posts the colors during the service and acts as a pallbearer. At the end of the funeral service, the honor guard, along with numerous police and firefighters will line up in two rows and allow the family to pass through the center as a sign of respect.

The casket of the firefighter is draped with the flag from the firehouse the firefighter served in. At the end of the ceremony, the color guard will ceremoniously fold the flag and pass it to the next of kin to keep. The firefighter’s helmet is placed on their casket or altar during the funeral service. Another important part of the service is the Tolling of the Bell. This is a ceremony during the funeral where bells gong in a traditional pattern, meant to represent the original firehouse bells that tolled when there was a fire.

At every firefighter’s funeral you will see several fire rigs in attendance. The deceased’s own fire rig will lead the funeral procession to the cemetery.

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