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I was recently in class in the SC State Fire Academy and one of the speakers, an employee/instructor of the Fire Academy no less, made a comment about something being the decision of the one with the most bugles on his collar.  I have been enraged ever since!!  they are Speaking Trumpets!!  I wanted to yell across the auditorium to set him straight.
Are any of you this insane about details of our traditions or have I lost it?

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Please correct me if I am wrong, but I was under the impression that the Trumpets or Bugles were for Engine Officers, the Axes were for Truck officers, and the Rifles were for Rescue officers.
I have not heard of this before, however that may be a change some departments have adopted. The Trumpets were to designate officers of the department. As best as I can remember 1= Lt. 2= Captain 3= Battalion Chief 4= Asst Chief/Deputy Chief 5=Chief. But the speaking trumpet dates back before radios so the officers used the trumpets to project their voices better for directing fire crews at the scene, and the higher the rank the more direction that would person would have given hence the most trumpets go to the highest ranking officer.

Shareef Abdu Nur said:
Please correct me if I am wrong, but I was under the impression that the Trumpets or Bugles were for Engine Officers, the Axes were for Truck officers, and the Rifles were for Rescue officers.
With all of the issues that the fire service faces daily, especially our department, I can't imagine getting into that argument with someone. I do appreciate the traditions of our service, but unfortunately they are slowly being lost.
We do have our issues but those who don't know their history are destined to repeat it. The fire service has some of the greatest traditions in the world and we all need to do our part to keep those traditions alive.

Marc Haneberg said:
With all of the issues that the fire service faces daily, especially our department, I can't imagine getting into that argument with someone. I do appreciate the traditions of our service, but unfortunately they are slowly being lost.
I to agree but we need to look at where people are getting their information from on history and traditions of the fire service. I did a little research and found several sites that use different terminology.

The Foreman of the pump companies would use a large "speaking trumpet" to give orders to and urge his crew on. This came from a site called A FirePro.com "History of Firefighting"

Another site I found was from CAPTAINMICA.com Everything you ever wanted to know about the fire s...
In the early days, of North American fire departments, orders were given to the troops, by officers, through the use of a large brass device that resembles a megaphone. These were very ornate brass horns. They were commonly called “bugles” or speaking trumpets. The person with the bugle hanging from his neck or shoulder was easily identified as the person in charge. Officers became identified with these objects so a small pin in the shape of a bugle became a type of rank insignia for officers. The more “bugles on his collar” the higher the rank. An expression still used today.

Last of many of hundreds I found came from absoluteastronomy.com/topics/Firefighter In the United States
helmet colors often denote a fire fighter's rank or position. In general, white helmets denote chief officers, while red helmets denote company officers, but the specific meaning of a helmet's color or style varies from region to region and department to department. The rank of an officer in the U.S. fire service is most commonly denoted by a number of speaking trumpets, a reference to a megaphoneMegaphone
A megaphone, speaking-trumpet, bullhorn, blowhorn, or loud hailer is a portable, usually hand-held, funnel cone-shaped device whose application is to amplify a person’s voice towards a targeted direction. This is accomplished by channeling the sound through a funnel, which also serves to match the...
like device used in the early days of the fire service, although typically they are called "bugles" in today's parlance. Ranks proceed from one (lieutenant) to five (fire chief) bugles.


So it seems that it's not the brothers not knowing the traditions but simply an improper use of a word to describe it. More likely it's someone's or a websites or articles lack of using the correct terminology. Hence once again the underlying #1 issue in our Fire Service is lack of COMMUNICATION & INFORMATION gathering.
Exactly! If we do not promote the TRUE history and traditions then they will become what ever. Misinformation will cause us to lose those traditions. I have also heard them called "toilet plungers" which is used somewhat jokingly but when used in front of new recruits with out offering the truth does them a disservice and erodes our wonderful traditions.

Brad Hoff said:
I to agree but we need to look at where people are getting their information from on history and traditions of the fire service. I did a little research and found several sites that use different terminology.

The Foreman of the pump companies would use a large "speaking trumpet" to give orders to and urge his crew on. This came from a site called A FirePro.com "History of Firefighting"

Another site I found was from CAPTAINMICA.com Everything you ever wanted to know about the fire s...
In the early days, of North American fire departments, orders were given to the troops, by officers, through the use of a large brass device that resembles a megaphone. These were very ornate brass horns. They were commonly called “bugles” or speaking trumpets. The person with the bugle hanging from his neck or shoulder was easily identified as the person in charge. Officers became identified with these objects so a small pin in the shape of a bugle became a type of rank insignia for officers. The more “bugles on his collar” the higher the rank. An expression still used today.

Last of many of hundreds I found came from absoluteastronomy.com/topics/Firefighter In the United States
helmet colors often denote a fire fighter's rank or position. In general, white helmets denote chief officers, while red helmets denote company officers, but the specific meaning of a helmet's color or style varies from region to region and department to department. The rank of an officer in the U.S. fire service is most commonly denoted by a number of speaking trumpets, a reference to a megaphoneMegaphone
A megaphone, speaking-trumpet, bullhorn, blowhorn, or loud hailer is a portable, usually hand-held, funnel cone-shaped device whose application is to amplify a person’s voice towards a targeted direction. This is accomplished by channeling the sound through a funnel, which also serves to match the...
like device used in the early days of the fire service, although typically they are called "bugles" in today's parlance. Ranks proceed from one (lieutenant) to five (fire chief) bugles.


So it seems that it's not the brothers not knowing the traditions but simply an improper use of a word to describe it. More likely it's someone's or a websites or articles lack of using the correct terminology. Hence once again the underlying #1 issue in our Fire Service is lack of COMMUNICATION & INFORMATION gathering.
I've actually heard some call them "toliet plungers"! I may have taken a few years off of my life when I let a string of obscenities out. Disrespectful b@$%#*^$!!!

I suspect that calling the speaking trumpets "bugles" dates back to long before any of us were born.

This is not a mistake that has recently been made. This might date back to when fire crew bosses actually carried them.

I have to agree with this below.(FYI- I added the bold face.)

Note: It is probably OK that we traditionally refer to fire department rank insignia as a bugle, even though they are not really musical instruments. Some people object to the term "bugle" because it is not a brass musical instrument, and never was. Let's face it, this is the way people name things. We latch onto something the item resembles or was derived from historically. This best example might be the fire "plug". It is not a plug. It is a hydrant. What many fire departments call a PTO has long been replaced by a transfer case. A fire engine and its crew is traditionally a "company" not a unit! Jackrabbits are not rabbits at all, they are hares. The Belgian Hare, a popular pet, is a rabbit. (Who stores gloves in a "glove compartment"?) There are hundreds (perhaps thousands) of other examples of common inaccurate names being derived from historical, fictional or erroneous perceptions. Yet we don't seem to worry about them. It is the nature of a living language. (BTW, "Bugles" are also a tasty corn chip and a glass bead sewn into clothing.)

from: http://www.fireserviceinfo.com/ranks.html

Shareef Abdu Nur said:

Please correct me if I am wrong, but I was under the impression that the Trumpets or Bugles were for Engine Officers, the Axes were for Truck officers, and the Rifles were for Rescue officers.

Yes, you are wrong.

But let me explain.

OK. You are not wrong to say that there is (or might be) some fire department somewhere that does this. There might even be several who do. It is just not correct to say that this is standard practice for the fire service. There is NO common fire service practice for ANYTHING to do with uniforms or rank structures. Helmet color only means what it means in that single department, etc.

Do not assume that what you see in your department or even your part of the country is carried out in others. Some departments do not use bugles at all while other use ONLY bugles to show rank. Some departments have sargents and majors. Several department have" captains" and "senior captains" with no lieutenant rank.

And FYI- I have been doing this for over 30 years. I have visited with departments all over North America. I have NEVER seen what you describe. (Of course that doesn't mean it isn't done.)


Ron Becknell said:

I have not heard of this before, however that may be a change some
departments have adopted. The Trumpets were to designate officers of the
department. As best as I can remember 1= Lt. 2= Captain 3= Battalion
Chief 4= Asst Chief/Deputy Chief 5=Chief. But the speaking trumpet dates
back before radios so the officers used the trumpets to project their
voices better for directing fire crews at the scene, and the higher the
rank the more direction that would person would have given hence the
most trumpets go to the highest ranking officer.

 

If you believe the badge makers and the website out there, there is on error in your description of traditional bugle rank insignia.

Captain's are usually two vertical bugles and bat chiefs are represented by two crossed bugles.

One last question concerning this topic.

If we call them "speaking trumpets" are we not making the same mistake as calling them bugles?

A trumpet is simply a bugle with valves. It is no more a trumpet than it is a bugle. It IS a megaphone.

The fact that it was referred to as a trumpet and 200 years ago a trumpet and a bugle were both common brass instruments, but more people were probably familiar with bugles, possibly lead to them being called bugles. The common name for trumpet was possibly bugle, I would guess. BUT IT IS JUST A GUESS.

As I look for definitions for trumpet or bugle on the internet, I get just about the same answers.

Trum-pet a. any of a family of brass wind instruments with a powerful, penetrating tone, consisting of a tube commonly curved once or twice around on itself and having a cup-shaped mouthpiece at one end and a flaring bell at the other.

 

I am still betting that they have been called bugles longer than anything else.

Actually the term Fire Plug dates back to before hydrants.  In the time of bucket brigades and wooden water mains Firemen or neighbors would dig up the water main and knock a h*** in it the h*** that was dug would then fill with water for the buckets to be filled.  After the fire the h*** in the wooden pipe would be repaired with a plug and when the h*** was filled in and the brick sidewalk repaired, a marker would be placed in the sidewalk to mark the location of the fire plug so it could be used in the future since removing the plug was easier than making a new h***.

As Firefighters we are honored to be a small part of the history and traditions that have lasted many generations.  But we must also do our part to pass that history and those traditions down to the newer members so they can continue for future generations.  I would have to suggest the book, So Others May Live, this provides excellent explanations about the history of the Fire Service, FDNY in particular.

Bob McGorkic said:

I suspect that calling the speaking trumpets "bugles" dates back to long before any of us were born.

This is not a mistake that has recently been made. This might date back to when fire crew bosses actually carried them.

I have to agree with this below.(FYI- I added the bold face.)

Note: It is probably OK that we traditionally refer to fire department rank insignia as a bugle, even though they are not really musical instruments. Some people object to the term "bugle" because it is not a brass musical instrument, and never was. Let's face it, this is the way people name things. We latch onto something the item resembles or was derived from historically. This best example might be the fire "plug". It is not a plug. It is a hydrant. What many fire departments call a PTO has long been replaced by a transfer case. A fire engine and its crew is traditionally a "company" not a unit! Jackrabbits are not rabbits at all, they are hares. The Belgian Hare, a popular pet, is a rabbit. (Who stores gloves in a "glove compartment"?) There are hundreds (perhaps thousands) of other examples of common inaccurate names being derived from historical, fictional or erroneous perceptions. Yet we don't seem to worry about them. It is the nature of a living language. (BTW, "Bugles" are also a tasty corn chip and a glass bead sewn into clothing.)

from: http://www.fireserviceinfo.com/ranks.html

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