The History of "The Last Alarm"
The men and women of today's fire service are confronted with a more dangerous work environment than ever before. We are forced to continually change our strategies and tactics to accomplish our tasks.
Our methods may change, but our goals remain the same as they were in the past, to save lives and to protect property, sometimes at a terrible cost. This is what we do, this is our chosen profession, this is the tradition of the fire fighter.
The fire service of today is ever changing, but is steeped in traditions 200 years old. One such tradition is the sound of a bell.
In the past, as fire fighters began their tour of duty, it was the bell that signaled the beginning of that day's shift. Throughout the day and night, each alarm was sounded by a bell, which summoned these brave souls to fight fires and to place their lives in jeopardy for the good of their fellow citizen. And when the fire was out and the alarm had come to an end, it was the bell that signaled to all the completion of that call. When a fire fighter had died in the line of duty, paying the supreme sacrifice, it was the mournful toll of the bell that solemnly announced a comrades passing.
We utilize these traditions as symbols, which reflect honor and respect on those who have given so much and who have served so well. To symbolize the devotion that these brave souls had for their duty, a “special signal” represents the end of our comrades' duties and that they will be returning to quarters.
It is customary that the “Last Alarm” be sounded for our brother or sister who paid the supreme sacrifice. For having selflessly given their lives for the good of their fellow man, their tasks completed, their duties well done, to signify, they are “returning to quarters”.