How FDNY got their Bravest nickname

New York’s Fire Department can trace their Bravest
nickname back to French military commander Michel Ney, the ‘bravest of the brave’

New York City’s smoke-eaters have earned their nickname a thousand times over since it was first applied to them in the late 1800s — but its origins may have more to do with the military than firefighting.

According to historians, the “bravest of the brave” was a Frenchman named Michel Ney, a fearsome and formidable foe on the battlefield who waged war alongside Napoleon from 1803 to 1815, during the Napoleonic Wars.


Ney was known to his troops as “Le Rougeaud,” or the red-faced one. But after one particularly daunting stretch of warfare, the Emperor dubbed him “le brave des braves.”

It might never have been attached to the FDNY if it weren’t for their brothers in blue, the NYPD.

As early as 1874, the city’s police force was being referred to as the “Finest,” according to historian and author Barry Popik.

The nickname is most commonly traced to Police Chief George Matsell, who once declared that he would make “the finest police force in the world.”

By the early 1880s, a play about cops titled “One of the Finest” cemented the name, Popik said. Not to be outdone, firefighters soon began referring to some of their most heralded members as the “Bravest.”

In 1862 a newspaper article saluted Capt. John Downey as “the bravest of the brave.”

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In 1886, a play appeared about city firemen called “One of the Bravest” — which pretty much sealed it in the eyes of the public and among the rank-and-file.

Before long, city dwellers were lining up to buy tickets to what became annual baseball games between the “Finest” and the “Bravest,” Popik said.

FDNY Squirts

From the Vault:
Say, I didn’t know they had one of those…
This is an unusual photo showing one of the two Mack pumpers the FDNY purchased in 1970 that were equipped with 54-foot “Squirts”. This fire was in August of 1971. The Squirts did not catch on.


Smoky Joe Martin FDNY

When Joseph B. Martin joined the FDNY in 1884, he was one of the only firemen on the job with a college education. He rose quickly through the ranks. While in command of Engine 31 he would earn his now world famous nickname.
On a cold winter night in 1899 Martin led an attack on a dangerous cellar fire in a large warehouse. Despite the fact the nozzle teams had to keep changing men, Martin stayed at the lead. Man after man took his turn at the knob only to be driven from his position by the heavy smoke and high heat conditions. Soon his entire company was laid out in the street unconscious or gasping for air. After watching yet another company stumble out into the street, Chief Croker ordered everyone out.
Martin remained.
The chief crawled in himself. After three attempts to reach the nozzle the veteran chief finally found Martin, nozzle in hand wedged between packing crates battling the flames. Crocker grabbed him by the collar and pulled him out.
In the street, Croker announced, half-angry and half-proud “Gentlemen, this is Smoky Joe Martin. By the gods he certainly does love it!”
The nickname stuck.
The salty fire officer would continue up the ranks until he became Assistant Chief. Martin commanded some of the most dangerous and difficult fires any fire officer has ever faced. He continued leading his beloved men until he was forced to retire in November 1930. He died at home 11 years later.
In 1944, the now famous character “Smokey Bear” was named after him.
The photos show Martin with his driver “Daredevil Dan” Healy. Martin far left with smoke helmeted Rescue 1 men and the mayor at Medal Day 1916. And Martin’s ornate signature on a report from the Board of Merit. Paul Hashagen

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Rescue 1 FDNY

From the Vault:
One Hundred Years Ago Today-
March 7, 1915 was a Sunday. The members of the FDNY’s newest unit Rescue Company 1 had the day off. They had just finished exhaustive training that started on January 19th. They mastered the use of the smoke helmets, cutting torches, pulmotors, block and tackle, bottle jacks and studied the operation and repair of large ammonia systems. The following day they would embark on a journey into uncharted waters. They would go where no other firemen had ever gone, and lived to talk about it.
They would crawl, or wade or walk into clouds of toxic smoke and gases. Pull unconscious firemen and civilians from water and carbon monoxide filled cellars and sub-cellars. They would plunge into the holds of ships with hose lines or swing on ropes to reach people trapped by flames.
The entire history of heavy & technical rescue, and hazardous materials operations can be directly traced back to one captain, a lieutenant and eight men that rolled out of a firehouse in lower Manhattan and started a branch of the fire service that is still growing today.
This new saga would begin tomorrow morning- 100 years ago.
Stay tuned!

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Brooklyn Battery Tunnel Fire

From the Vault:
Great photo of Rescue 1 Captain Patrick Green reporting to the fire commissioner and having his “Scott bottle” changed. The scene of this difficult and dangerous major fire was inside the still under construction Brooklyn Battery Tunnel on May 14, 1947. The entire company made several trips through pressurized air-locks to reach the seat of the fire in the blazing tunnel. Green was awarded the Bennett Medal and every man working the tour in Rescue 1 (11 men) also were awarded a medal for their heroic operation. I think this is the only time in the history of the FDNY that ever happened. The fire took more than 2 -1/2 hours to extinguish.

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Bunker Gear Style Koozie

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What a perfect way to beat the summer heat and show your pride than with a Bunker Gear Style Koozie.
All of our koozies are high quality, heavy duty durable Cordura.
Made in the USA.
These are a great Fireman’s gift! #bunkergearkoozie
Includes 5mm neoprene center to keep your beverage cold! A step up from your average PU Foam Coolers, neoprene is a material often used in wetsuits to allow for maximum insulation and comfort. These bunker gear style neoprene koozies are sure to be a favorite among your friends. Available in your choice of Black, Orange, Yellow, Red, Blue, and Pink . Measures:  5in high x 3.5 round diameter

Bunker Gear Style Koozie

FDNY Rescue 1 at Madison Square Garden

Great photo of Rescue 1 taken outside Madison Square Garden during one of the 1947 Midnight Alarm shows. There were several versions of the Midnight Alarm, where the FDNY showed their skills to a arena filled with people. The proceeds from the first show (1935) went to purchasing an ambulance for the department. Subsequent shows raised money to send the FDNY band to the American Legion convention in 1938, and this show in 1947 to help the FDNY Welfare Fund.
Salty Dog Apparel & Co.
Cool old school Firefighter apparel

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Valentines Day FDNY 1958

From the Vault:
Valentine’s Day 1958
At 6:51 pm Manhattan Box 334 was transmitted for a fire in a six-story loft building at 137 Wooster Street. At the height of the multiple alarm fire, three floors of the Elkins Paper & Twine Company building collapsed trapping numerous members. Five-alarms were struck, and hundreds of off-duty members descended on the scene despite heavy snowfall, bitter winds and icy conditions. Rescue 1 was joined by Rescue 2 in a major tunneling and shoring operation in hopes of reaching two FDNY firemen and four members of the Fire Patrol trapped in the huge, frozen pile of rubble.
Conditions were so dangerous a crane was brought in to remove a large overhanging section of the building that was threatening to crash down upon the rescuers. The operation continued on into the following day, despite another major fire, a fourth-alarm in a lower east-side tenement only blocks away.
Sadly, the six men could not be saved.

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