Firefighter Funeral Traditions

firefighter funeral
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    Firefighter funeral traditions provide our fallen heroes the respect and gratitude they deserve for the ultimate sacrifice they made to our society. The types of funerals that firefighters have are usually classified as:

    • Formal (full military-style honors and traditions)
    • Semi-formal (some traditions and honors)
    • Non-formal
    • Private

    When firefighters pass away their family isn’t alone. The majority of fire departments have people to help plan the funeral if the family would like assistance with making arrangements for the funeral. The following firefighter funeral traditions help us remember their sacrifice and show the proper respect they deserve. Let’s look at some of the most common firefighter funeral traditions.

    Firefighter Funeral Traditions

    Police Liaison

    The firefighter funeral procession is assisted by the local police department. The police will help with the arrangement or an ideal traffic route for the procession. They will also lead the funeral procession as well as provide assistance with traffic control.

    Helmet on the Altar

    During the funeral service, the firefighter’s helmet will be placed on top of the casket or upon the altar.

    Honor Guard

    Fellow police officers or firefighters will stand guard at the funeral entrance. These members, called the Honor Guard, are picked from fellow firefighters or officers. Their dress is formal and they are also the pallbearers that carry the firefighter’s casket. 

    Folded Flag

    The firefighter’s casket is covered with the flag from their firehouse that they served in. The color guard will fold the flag at the end of the ceremony and then pass it on to the next of kin to take in remembrance.

    Tolling of the Bell

    “Tolling of the Bell” happens during the firefighter’s funeral ceremony. This tradition is based on the telegraph pattern of communication. In the old days, the telegrapher communicated the term “fell” with the 5 dashes and a pause. This would be repeated 2 more times. Today, the bell ceremony sounds like the old firehouse bells that rang if there was a fire.

    Fire Rigs at the Funeral Procession

    Firefighter funeral will have several fire rigs attending the ceremony. The  fire rig of the deceased will lead the procession to the cemetery.


    The playing of bagpipes are possibly most recognizable of all the firefighter funeral traditions. 

    Firefighter songs Played at Funerals

    Firefighter funerals and bagpipe music have a long history together. Firefighters and police officers have had bagpipes played at memorial services since the 19th century. This history began when Irish immigrants started arriving in the 1800s because of the potato famine in Ireland. 

    Irish Americans didn’t have many employment options due to discrimination. They were relegated to dangerous jobs and had to become firefighters or police officers. These jobs had a high death count and bagpipes were the instrument of choice for the Irish. Today, the most common firefighter songs played at funerals are Amazing Grace and The Minstrel Boy.

    Amazing Grace

    Amazing Grace, How sweet the sound
    That saved a wretch like me
    I once was lost, but now am found
    T’was blind but now I see
    T’was Grace that taught my heart to fear
    And Grace, my fears relieved
    How precious did that grace appear
    The hour I first believed
    Through many dangers, toils and snares
    We have already come.
    T’was grace that brought us safe thus far
    And grace will lead us home,
    And grace will lead us home
    Amazing grace, How sweet the sound
    That saved a wretch like me
    I once was lost but now am found
    T’was blind but now I see
    Was blind, but now I see.

    The Minstrel Boy

    The minstrel boy to the war is gone;
    In the ranks of death you’ll find him;
    His father’s sword he has girded on,
    And his wild harp slung behind him;
    “Land of Song!” said the warrior bard,
    “Though all the world betrays thee,
    One sword, at least, thy rights shall guard,
    One faithful harp shall praise thee!
    The Minstrel fell! But the foeman’s chain
    Could not bring that proud soul under;
    The harp he loved ne’er spoke again,
    For he tore its chords asunder;
    And said “No chains shall sully thee,
    Thou soul of love and bravery!
    Thy songs were made for the pure and free
    They shall never sound in slavery!


    Give Me Concern
    A willingness to seek out those in need
    Give Me Courage
    The boldness of spirit to face and conquer fear,
    share and endure the ordeal of other in need.
    Give Me Strength
    Strength of heart, to bear whatever burden
    might be placed on me and strength of body to
    deliver safely all those placed in my care
    Give Me Wisdom to Lead
    The Compassion to comfort, and the love to serve unselfishly wherever you take me
    And please Lord, through if all, be at my side.


    When I am called to duty, God
    Wherever flames may rage,
    Give me strength to save some life
    Whatever be its age.
    Help me embrace a little child
    Before it is too late
    Or save an older person from
    The horror of that fate.
    Enable me to be alert
    To the weakest shout
    And quickly and efficiently
    To put the fire out.
    I want to fill my calling and
    To give the best in me,
    To guard my every neighbor and
    Protect his property.
    And if according to my fate
    I am to lose my life
    Please bless with your protecting hand
    My family and my wife.

    Additional resources

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    Michael Quinn

    Michael is a licensed life insurance agent, expert & owner of Life Insurance Blog. LIB has helped thousands of shoppers understand life insurance and secure affordable coverage.

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