The most common symbol used by Fire departments around the world is the Maltese cross. It is often seen on fire trucks, uniforms and badges. Its origins and reasons for being chosen as a universal Firefighter symbol go back to the island of Malta in the 12th century.
The island of Malta was the home of the Knights of St. John who existed during the 11th and 12th centuries. In order to identify themselves in battle, when wearing full body armor, they needed a symbol to quickly and easily identify themselves. The Cross of Calvary was chosen which later came to be known as the Maltese cross. During the Crusades, the enemies of the Knights often used fire as a weapon. It was common for a Knight to risk his own life to save another Knight or extinguish a fire.
The Knights of St. John were also known for their care of the sick and injured. Combined with their abilites to fight fires, and the pride and honor they took in their work, the Maltese cross is a fitting symbol for today's firefighter. Firefighting is a proud profession, and only a symbol of pride would exeplify the work of a firefighter.