The Fireman’s (Firefighter’s) Prayer And Its History

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You don’t have to be a fireman to have heard The Fireman’s Prayer, it’s one of the best-known popular prayers. However, even if you are familiar with the prayer, you may not be aware of who wrote it and why they wrote it.

The Fireman’s Prayer and its’s history are quite fascinating and if you’re interested in firefighting or history in general, it’s worth taking a deeper look into it. 

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Also read: What Is The Oldest Fire Department In The United States?

What Is The Fireman’s (Firefighter’s) Prayer? 

firemans prayer

As the name suggests, it’s a prayer (though many would assert “a poem”, particularly if they are not religious) that was written by Alvin William “Smokey” Linn.

It goes like this: 

The Fireman’s Prayer

“When I am called to duty, God

whenever flames may rage,

Give me the strength to save some life

Whatever be its age.

Help me to embrace a little child

Before it’s too late,

Or some older person

from the horror of that fate.

Enable me to be alert

And hear the weakest shout,

And quickly and efficiently

to put the fire out.

I want to fill my calling

and give the best in me,

To guard my neighbor

And protect his property.

And if according to Your will

I have to lose my life,

Please bless with Your protecting hand

My children and my wife”

Who Wrote The Fireman’s Prayer?

As we said above, Alvin William “Smokey” Linn was the author of The Fireman’s Prayer and many folks never dig much further into it than that.

However, Smokey Linn wasn’t just some random poet, he was an actual firefighter. He had served in World War II and when he returned home, he joined the fire service (the Kansas Fire Department to be precise). 

In 1975, he would retire from the Fire Service and take over as President of his local Good Sam Camping Club. 

Smokey Linn lived until March 2004 when he died in hospital of complications that he had sustained during an operation. 

There’s a memorial to Smokey Linn outside the fire station in Brunswick in Maine and it contains the final lines of his prayer engraved on its surface. 

About Smokey Linn

According to Smokey’s granddaughter, his nickname didn’t come from his days in the service or even during the war. 

He picked up when he decided to rescue his grandfather’s Ford Model T from a fire on their farm, he ran into the burning barn, started the vehicle and drove it out.

They say, he and the vehicle were fine but his trousers were giving off smoke by the time he emerged, and thus, he became “Smokey” Linn forevermore to those who loved him. 

He lived an adventurous life, and his granddaughter says that he survived a torpedo attack by a Japanese submarine during his time in the military. 

Why Did Smokey Linn Write The Firefighter’s Prayer?

His granddaughter says that Smokey Linn wrote the prayer after he’d spent a day battling a fire in an apartment that had involved some trapped children. 

The kids were visible to the firefighters but they couldn’t be released from the apartment as the landlord had decided to place iron bars over the windows and they couldn’t be pried off by the crew. 

That meant they had to keep the blaze contained t try and protect the children. 

It was one o’clock in the morning, after this fire, that Smokey Linn sat down at his fire station, and tried to write out how he had felt about that call. 

It’s a real prayer and it’s meant as one man’s offering in the face of how precarious and how valuable life is. 

It was first published, in 1958 and it fell out of copyright in 1998. However, the family have asked, as a courtesy, that when the prayer is used in other works that credit is given to Alvin William Smokey Linn. 

What Does The Firefighter’s Prayer Mean?

Some try to dress the prayer up in heroism but that’s not the purpose of the Firefighter’s Prayer, it’s the real story of a real firefighter doing his duty. 

It’s not heroism that drives a firefighter’s actions, though they may be viewed as heroic in retrospect, it’s the desire to protect others and their property and not to let down the service or their fellow crew members as they go about this duty. 

The prayer is meant to provide comfort in difficult circumstances. To firefighters in the middle of duty when things are tough, and they need a little spiritual support, and to those impacted by fire as well.

It should be said aloud with passion and fervor and its powerful voice will help to inspire courage and resilience in your heart. 

If you believe in a higher power, then you may find that prayer brings you closer to that higher power and further strengthens your resolve to do what must be done. 

If you want to know how firefighters find it within themselves to tackle horrors like the events of 9/11 when more than 300 firefighters died, it’s, in part at least, to the Firefighter’s Prayer. 

The Fireman’s Wife’s Prayer

There is also, another, less well-known poem which is called The Fireman’s Wife’s Prayer, there’s no backstory to this one, in fact, we don’t even know who wrote it but it’s a worthy companion to the Firefighter’s Prayer.

“The table’s set, the meal’s prepared, our guests will soon arrive,

My husband once more disappears with a hope of keeping a child alive. While waiting at home alone, our plans having gone awry,

My first impulse is merely to sit right down and cry.

But soon again I realize the importance of my life,

When I agreed to take on the duties of being a fireman’s wife.

While there are many drawbacks, I’ll take them in my stride,

Knowing “My Daddy saved a life” our children can say with pride.

The gusting winds and raging flames may be his final fate,

But with God’s help,
I can remain my fireman’s, faithful mate.”


What Is The Firefighter Motto?

Some people also refer to the Firefighter’s Prayer as the Firefighter Motto.

However, it’s worth noting that there is no official “firefighter motto” though the Firefighter’s Prayer is a perfectly serviceable choice for this. 

Who Is The Patron Saint Of Firefighters?

Firefighters are protected spiritually in other ways too. On May 4th every year, once you’ve got the Star Wars jokes out of the way, you should be aware that it’s also St. Florian’s day.

St. Florian is the patron saint of firefighters. He was a Roman soldier who lived in the 3rd and 4th centuries A.D. 

He died because he refused to hide his Christian faith when a purge of Christians took place in the Roman army, and he was due to suffer “death for the Faith” which meant being hurled alive onto a blazing pyre.

Florian is said to have sneered at his captors and told them, “Light the fire! I am ready to climb onto the pyre myself when you do.”

This made the soldiers tasked with his murder wary, apparently, and they opted to beat him to death before setting him on fire and throwing his remains in a river.

A woman nearby recovered his body and gave it a Christian burial. 

He became the patron saint of firefighters when he was associated with a miracle whereby his name was invoked by someone who then survived a fire. 

Oddly, he is also the patron saint of breweries and chimney sweeps and in some countries, soap boilers too. 

Do Firefighters Take An Oath? 

Yes, but this has nothing to do with the Fireman’s Prayer.

The oath of office for most firemen in the United States is a simple pledge to do their duty and to uphold the constitution and state while they do. 

In some cases, there may be a formal pledge with emotional wording that evokes some of the traits that are sought in firefighters but in others? It may be basic and informal; it varies depending on your local fire department. 


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