Some of the bravest and most self-sacrificing people, firefighters are often considered modern-day heroes. Firefighter tattoos are received by both firefighters and those who seek to support or remember a firefighter who has made an impact.
Many firefighters receive tattoos to commemorate their service and proudly identify themselves as a person of community service, much like members of the military.
Firefighters are often likened to specific symbols which makes the idea of the firefighter tattoo a good one that leaves you with a great deal of options to use. If you are a firefighter and are looking for some ideas on a tattoo that represents what you do, you’ve come to the right place.
There are a lot of symbols that we see that make us think of firefighters and would be great choices for tattoos. You don’t even have to be a firefighter to have a tattoo like this as many of us have friends or family that are or were firefighters.
In this post, we are going to talk about what firefighter tattoos mean and what they mean to the people who have them. More specifically, we are going to talk about different variations of the firefighter tattoo and what each one of those variations means to the people who wear them. By the time you are done reading this, you should have a pretty good idea of the different firefighter tattoos that are out there.
Firefighter Tattoo Variations
There are plenty of variations of firefighter tattoos that have been worn by firefighters and people who are close to firefighters. Every symbol means something a little different to the person wearing it but has the firefighter theme in mind.
Fire Rescue Tattoo
There are common firefighter symbols that serve as appropriate designs for a firefighter. A crest with the emblem of a firefighter helmet, an axe, a ladder, and firehose nozzle layered in the center, often sandwiched between two banners that read “Fire Rescue” is a general sign. It is often seen in greyscale but almost always a vivid red when colored to represent flames and heat.
Firefighter Helmet Tattoo
A firefighter helmet on its own is another commonly used symbol. The number of department or fire hall is usually included on the helmet, specifically referencing the station where the individual worked. Flames and smoke are often added into larger pieces to add dimension and emphasize the dangers of the occupation. National flags are sometimes included as well to convey a sense of nationalism, a pride in the country for which one is serving.
In most cases, this tattoo will show the mask with the reflection of what that firefighter believes in or has seen. We’ve seen reflections of their fellow firefighters, the American flag and fire.
Fire Hydrant Tattoo
Hydrants and hoses are also used as general symbols of the firefighter. In smaller designs, they work well as traditionally rendered images, with a less serious, cartoonish appearance. The design mimics the traditional roots of sailor tattoos who commemorated their feats on water with tattoos. Dalmatian dogs, the black and white spotted hound that famously accompany firefighters, are used as a firefighter image as well.
Full Gear Firefighter Tattoo
The image of a firefighter in full gear and a gas mask, often running into the flames of a burning building, makes a striking design. These are much larger, as sleeves or back pieces, and are almost always done in very realistic detail, taking hours of dedication from both the artist and the firefighter.
History of Firefighters
The history of fighting fires goes back a long time. The modern firefighter that you know today has come a long way from the early days in ancient Rome during the 3rd century and under the rule of Augustus. There is some evidence of ancient Egypt having firefighters as well.
Marcus Licinius Crassus created the first Roman fire brigade. At the time, Rome had no firefighters and Crassus took advantage of that. He built a group of 500 firefighters who would run straight into trouble when someone called. The firefighters would show up and sit in place while Crassus negotiated a price for the firefighters to put it out. If there wasn’t an agreement on the price of the service, the firefighters would stand there and let the place burn down.
Emperor Nero put a group of firefighters together in AD 60 called the Vigiles. They would put out fires by using pumps and buckets. They walked Rome’s streets to keep on the lookout for any fires that might break out in addition to serving as a police force. When the fire started, the Vigiles would line up to the nearest place with water and make a line where they would pass buckets to the source of the fire.
The first organized firefighting in Britain is said to have started in AD 43 during the Roman invasion. Back then, there was nothing better to use than buckets. After the Romans left the region, the surrounding communities began to fail and the firefighters took a back seat to all the issues being faced.
The Middle Ages were a time of destruction caused by fire because most buildings and homes were made of wood and there was a severe lack of firefighters at the time. No standards or regulations were enforced, but eventually, firefighters were brought back because of some parishes.
In 1666, things changed in terms of standards of firefighting because of the Great Fire of London. That fire set the parts in motion to get the foundation set for what we would know as a more modernized firefighter. The Great Fire began on Pudding Lane and the bakery of Thomas Farriner on September 2 and lasted until the next day.
The death toll of this fire is still unknown but only six people were verified to have died. On the other hand, it is said that nobody accounted for the people in the middle class and the poor. In addition, the heat of the fire might have completely cremated some of the victims. You can find a piece of melted pottery in the Museum of London as a keepsake.
The Great Fire led to the “The Fire Office”, which was the first insurance company that offered fire coverage. Nicholas Barbon was the man who founded this group. Property was protected by small teams of Thames watermen that would be on call and this is how things were done until the 1800’s. People who held fire policies were given a fire mark or a badge to put on their building.
The Fire Brigade was contacted if a fire started and if the building had had the right marker on it, the brigade would put the fire out. Otherwise, the building would burn and the other firefighters would sit and watch if it wasn’t a building that worked with them.
In the United States, the future President, George Washington, was a volunteer firefighter in Virginia. As a member of a group called the Friendship Veterans Fire Engine Company, Washington purchased a brand new fire engine for the city of Alexandria, Virginia and it would be the first one they ever had. Benjamin Franklin was also a volunteer firefighter and he was part of a group that helped found Philadelphia’s first fire department in the year 1736.
This is just the early beginnings of how firefighting came to be and it eventually made its way to the United States where up until the Civil War, fire brigades were privately run. After the American Civil War, the fire departments were government-run.
Getting a firefighter tattoo always represents a great cause and we commend those who put their lives in the way of danger to protect us. Make sure that when you get your firefighter tattoo, make sure you feel good about the shop and artist. After all, you will have this tattoo for a very long time.