Conceived as a tribute to America's fire service, the National Fallen Firefighters Memorial is one of this country's most beautiful monuments to courage and unselfish service. Constructed in 1981 on the campus of the National Fire Academy in Emmitsburg, Maryland, the Memorial was officially designated by Congress as the national Memorial to career and volunteer fallen firefighters in 1990. It is a symbol of honor for those who carry on the tradition of service to their communities.
The highlight of the Memorial is a sculptured bronze Maltese Cross. Throughout the centuries, the Maltese Cross has been adopted as a symbol by groups who provide aid in times of distress. The cross rests atop a 7-foot stone cairn, denoting its importance as a landmark monument. An eternal flame burns at the base of the cairn, representing the spirit of the firefighter—past, present, and future. A plaza in the shape of a Maltese Cross surrounds the Memorial. Plaques listing the names of firefighters killed in service to their communities since 1981 encircle the plaza. The area is framed on 2 sides by a 6-foot stone wall which dates back more than 100 years.
The Memorial is open to the public throughout the year. Thousands of students attending classes at the National Fire Academy and Emergency Management Institute visit the Memorial each year. When a firefighter dies on duty, local fire officials notify the USFA. A notice of the death is immediately posted on the Memorial grounds, and the flags over the Memorial are flown at half-staff in honor of the fallen firefighter. If the established criteria is met, the fallen firefighter is honored at the annual memorial service.