Members of Canada's fire service have often been unappreciated, despite the often dramatic and widely publicized circumstances in which they perform. Their profession, more than most, is truly one of long periods of tranquility punctuated by moments of stark terror. The quiet times are dedicated to training and fire prevention; those moments of terror are all in the line of duty. Far too frequently, we sit in awe watching a spectacular fire without thinking about the people whose duty it is to fight the blaze or what is really involved. Nor do we consider that fire is an unpredictable and unforgiving enemy. When such things are considered, the fire service is a natural candidate for a service medal comparable to those already established.
In mid-1985, the Government of Canada accepted the proposal for the creation of a service medal for all full-time and volunteer members of the numerous components of Canada's fire service. Regulations paralleling those of other exemplary service medals were drafted and a proposed design for the medal was submitted to representatives of the fire service. Once approved, the regulations and design were forwarded to the Sovereign with Cabinet's recommendations. Her Majesty The Queen signed Letters Patent creating the Fire Services Exemplary Service Medal on August 29, 1985.
The design of the medal incorporates crossed axes, a hydrant, and a stylized Maltese cross, an internationally recognized symbol of the fire prevention community. Both are superimposed on a maple leaf, the standard background symbol of Canadian honours. The red of the ribbon represents fire; the gold, common to all exemplary service medals, represents the quality of the service honoured.