It seems like once a week we receive questions via email and on social media inquiring about what the Black Helmet Brotherhood actually is and if certain people can join us. Well let us give a little breakdown.
First off, lets start with a little history of the Fire Helmet…
The traditional American leather firefighter’s helmet with its distinctive long rear brim, front-piece, and crest adornment was first developed around 1821-1836 in New York City. Henry T. Gratacap, a New York City luggage maker by trade, is often credited as the developer of this style of fire helmet. Gratacap created a specially treated leather helmet with a segmented “comb” design that led to unparalleled durability and strength. The elongated rear brim (also known as a duckbill or beaver-tail) and front-piece were 19th century innovations that remain the most identifiable feature of firefighter’s helmets. The body of the helmet was primarily designed to deflect falling debris, the rear brim prevented water from running down firefighters’ backs, and their sturdy crowns could aid, if necessary, in breaking windows.
The leather that the helmets were made from was often a dark color or dyed black. In the early years of firefighting, almost all of the helmets looked the same no matter the rank you were in the department. Over the years, while the overall helmet stayed black, the front-pieces of the helmet were colored to signify rank or what company you were assigned to, such as either the Engine, The Ladder or the Rescue. In the early 1900’s the overall helmet was either painted or dyed to signify color, however, even today, alot of departments stay with the past and use all black helmets with just the front representing rank. Not much has changed to the helmet appearance itself. The only changes consist of the fact that visors or eye shields have been added as well as ear-flaps and cloth mechanisms keep the inside of the helmet from resting on top of the firefighter’s head.
Now that the basic history of the fire helmet is laid out, lets talk about what the ‘Brotherhood’ is….
‘What exactly is Brotherhood?’ It’s an excellent question. Unfortunately, in our opinion there’s no all-encompassing definition of Brotherhood. Words cannot describe the true depth of what it means to have brothers who would do anything for you. Or what it means to care so deeply and strongly about an organization and its well-being. We have a saying: “On the outside, you can’t understand it. On the inside, you can’t explain it.” Its a family and bond in our profession between people and once you are in it, you know it.
All of this together creates the Black Helmet Brotherhood.
It doesn’t matter what your rank, your current helmet color, if your male or female or if your volunteer or paid. We are all Firefighters and we are all a family.
Train Hard – Work Hard – Stay Safe