Firefighters Cross Project

You can be an important part of the history of the fire service.

Fire Departments have unknowingly spread inaccurate information regarding the history of their prominent emblem, the "Firefighters Cross". The Firefighters Cross (FF Cross) has inappropriately been associated with prominent, and unrelated, cross designs such as the "Maltese Cross", "St. John's Cross" and "St. Florians Cross". None of these concepts relate to the current FF Cross in any way. The false information is so prevalent across the fire service that it threatens the historic integrity of our profession.

We are not the first to be mislead into adopting the wrong symbols for our profession. The medical profession is associated with the "Caduceus" instead of the correct symbol, the "Staff of Asclepius" (see Medical Symbol Information at the bottom of this page).

The medical profession has gotten so deep in their use of the wrong symbol that they are unable to pull out of it at this point - Don't let this happen to the fire service. Fire Street will be hosting the Firefighters Cross Project as an effort to get us back on track. If you have historical reference in the form of pictures or historical writings, then please submit them for review. Fire Street will be identifying prominent points to facilitate the actual history of our current FF Cross Design.

WRONG MEDICAL SYMBOL: Interestingly, many "medical" organizations are currently using the wrong symbolism. They have adopted the "Caduceus", a short rod entwined by two snakes and topped by a pair of wings. This is actually the caduceus or magic wand of the Greek god Hermes (Roman Mercury), messenger of the gods, inventor of (magical) incantations, conductor of the dead and protector of merchants and thieves.
Hermes was the god of commerce, eloquence, invention, travel and theft, and so was a symbol of heralds and commerce, not medicine. The words caduity & caducous imply temporality, perishableness and senility, while the medical profession espouses renewal, vitality and health.
CORRECT MEDICAL SYMBOL: The appropriate symbolism for medicine relates to Asclepius' staff.
Asclepius was most probably a skilled physician who practised in Greece around 1200BC (and described in Homer's Iliad). Eventually through myth and legend he came to be worshipped as Asclepius, the (Greek) god of Healing.
Medical schools developed, which were usually connected to temples or shrines called Asclepions (Asclepieia) dedicated to Asclepius.
So, knowing this, you would be proud of the EMS symbol, the Star of Life, that appropriately uses the staff of Asclepius.

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Current Status of Firefighters Cross Project

1. FF Cross design does not appear to be related to the Malese Cross and use of the term "maltese" for the Firefighters Cross would be inappropriate and misleading.

2. FF Cross design does not appear to be related to St. Florian and use of the term "St. Florians Cross" for the Firefighters Cross would be inappropriate and misleading.

3. FF Cross design does not appear to be related to the Firefighting Zouaves in the era of the American Civil War.

4. FF Cross may have been influenced by the Civil War Corp Badges, specifically the 5th Corp, since they were the current badge worn (on hat and left chest) to associate groups on the battlefield. This was during the same time period that fire departments started forming symbolism and hat/badge items.

5. FF Cross may have been influenced by the Kearny Cross (medal) since it was the "badge of honor" that soldiers wore. This was during the same time period that fire departments started forming symbolism and hat/badge items.

6. FF Cross may have been influenced by the 5th Corp Badge and/or Kearny badge since firefighters were prominent fighters in the Civil War era, and they would have worn the 5th Corp Badge and the Kearny Cross with pride. They would have kept these keepsakes for the years following. The strong emotional bond with the symbolism would be a very likely influence on the choice of symbolism for their badge/hat items when they returned to the fire service.
Hmmm...seems someone has too much time on his hands....Might try pulling some shifts or taking a few more calls......LOL Sorry I just couldn't help myself....Paul
Very interesting. Will the movement be able to have any effect? The inertia must be enormous. So, so many people over there are used to calling it the Maltese Cross. Good luck.

We don't use the Maltese (or Firefighters ) Cross as an emblem, so I'm only looking in from the outside. Our Ambulance service doesn't use the Staff of Asclepius, or your Star of Life - theirs emblem is more like the true cross emblem of the Knights of St John (the Knights Hospitaller) - as shown here I'm always interested in what's done in other countries.
The logo depicted in the Australian website is an excellent example of accurate symbolic association with the historical Hospitalers - thanks Tony. If the fire service has such a great desire to bond with that history, then they should change their symbolism. But to use different symbolism that is not associated, and then try to create an association, reflects poorly on the fire service's ability and integrity. This is the whole point -- if we want a rich association, such as the one in the site mentioned above, then we simply need to take collective action and make it happen. But, by not taking action, we risk being characterized as either ignorant, or a bunch of pretenders. Either way -- it does not represent the underlying character and quality of the fire service.
All I can say is that I've got to much on my plate as it is, but I do wish you all the luck.
Thanks TJ - Just spread the word to your friends. We may not be able to resolve the issues that we would like to, but we can give a heads-up to our friends, and who knows - one of them may be able to accomplish a lot for all of us. A relay station is just as important as the tracks that carry the load. Take care.

The real Maltese Cross, as shown above, has nothing to do with the fire service. We have progressively, and inadvertently, developed a closer bond with this symbol because it seems to have a good fit.
1. It matches the general description of the Firefighters Cross in that it is a cross with flaring arms, but that's about it.
2. We like the history of the Maltese Cross because it comes from historic times and is associated with a courageous band of crusaders known as the Knights of St. John, fought the Saracens for possession of the holy land.
3. We like the Knights of St. John because they were associated with fighting a new weapon of fire, "naphtha".
4. We like the whole concept, because it gives us statements such as, "The Maltese Cross is your symbol of protection. It means that the firefighter who wears this cross is willing to lay down his life for you just as the crusaders sacrificed their lives for their fellow man so many years ago. The Maltese Cross is a firefighter's badge of honor, signifying that he works in courage - a ladder rung away from death."

In reality, the crusaders that wore the maltese cross, and their ancestors now, still wear the exact same cross. It has never varied. If there was any remote relationship between the fire service and the maltese cross there would be historical transitions from their design to our Firefighters Cross, and/or there would be written documents that describe the association.

We need to be realistic -- if there was such a proud and powerful bond as the above statement suggests, then there would be a myriad of references during the development of our current design. If there was any design relationship, there would be design transitions to morph from the maltese cross to the current Firefighters Cross.
It is what it is - and if you look at how FD's portray their history of the Firefighters Cross it is not true. You seem to be implying that it may be ok to use the word "maltese" in a descriptive fashion, without being literal about the meaning -- well, that is why we are in a compromized state at this point. Because we didn't care that much, we conveniently developed statements that say that the design comes from the Hospitalers in the crusades. We took a generalization and created falsehood - that is wrong no matter if it is important to you or not. If you don't care, just don't spread false associations with the maltese cross or the so-called St. Florian cross (these are falsehoods) and especially the crusades.

Why would anyone want to pretend anything. It is only as important as the interest of the viewer - if we provide false information without caring, then we have a credibility problem. Without integrity and credibility the fire service would not be able to make gains or progress. This is a concept that implies that firefighters are capable of professionalism and accuracy - not complacency and disregard. I don't know of very many firefighters that just don't care about their professional image - rather, I think most would defend what they have worked so hard to establish.
My favorite saying is that "It is better to sweat in peace, than to bleed in war."

Perhaps firefighers just don't care.

But when the next bond issue comes around, a prominent individual is in the position to make a big donation, or the view of the public matters, we don't want anyone to point to a webpage on our official department website that sounds like we're just a bunch of unprofessional kids with fantacies that paint the wrong picture of us.

If "we just don't care", then we shouldn't complain when we lose public support because "we just don't care"
Wow..... I really want to just tear into you but I can see it would make no difference...... We care, that is why we are here, we just happen to focus on some larger issues. You think the public cares what we call it? I am more worried about the real challenges around me in life to take on a mission for a cause that will make no difference. If we didn't care we wouldn't be fire fighters. Whats it matter if we have a historical term wrong, it doesn't make a difference with anyone when I am on a fireground, it makes no difference when I hit my hydrant or when the 1st entry team breaches the door... Its not a priority or an issue of not caring its an issue of importance placed upon vague history
There's no problem to tear into anything. The issue is not related to the "term" or "semantics" -- the issue is that most FD's make prominent statements that say the history of the design comes from the crusades. This false historical reference is what the problem is, not what words we associate with the cross.

And interestingly, one of the more active discussions currently (10x more activity than this one) is the "Image to represent the fire service?"
when you put a blanket statement out that we don't care how do you expect support, you even neglected most of my post.... You come across as arrogant and down right as an asshole... Sorry we don't share your passion, but as others and I have said there are bigger issues we are facing now than what the terminology used is.

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