Why are United States flags flying at half-staff today? You’ll be seeing U.S. flags at government buildings and other places across the country flying at half-staff through sunset today on Sunday, October 9, in honor of fallen firefighters around the country. Every year, the President issues a half-staff proclamation that coincides with Fire Prevention Week. Read on to learn more details about why the flags are lowered today.
Flags Are Flying Half-Staff in Memory of Fallen Firefighters
On Sunday, October 9, all flags will be flying at half-staff in memory of the fallen firefighters around the country. This is a presidential proclamation from Biden for Fire Prevention Week 2022. Flags fly half-staff every year on Sunday during Fire Prevention Week.
Here is the Presidential Proclamation for 2022.
In 1920, President Woodrow Wilson proclaimed October 9th the first Fire Prevention Day, calling on the public to learn more about the risks of deadly fires and commemorating the thousands who had lost their lives to these tragedies. More than a century later, our Nation observes Fire Prevention Week by renewing our commitment to fire safety and preparedness and taking steps to prevent fires in our homes, schools, workplaces, and the great outdoors. We also honor the bravery and heroism of our firefighters, who gear up time and again and rush into harm’s way to protect our communities.
In the past year, our Nation has suffered some of its deadliest fires in recent history. Americans have lost their homes and their businesses. Thousands have tragically lost their lives. Wildfires are becoming more frequent and ferocious, destroying neighborhoods and natural resources and displacing families and communities. Super-charged by the climate crisis — which has exacerbated drought conditions and increased temperatures — these devastating wildfires have wiped out millions of acres of forest and so many homes.
Whenever the First Lady and I visit with families in the aftermath of a fire, we witness their incredible courage and resolve — even though, in many cases, they have just lost everything. We see people step up for one another, neighbors take each other in, and local businesses donate essential goods to those in need. With each visit, we are also reminded of the character of our Nation’s firefighters, who put their lives on the line with remarkable selflessness and extraordinary bravery that inspire everyone.
For our firefighters and our communities, we have a responsibility to act now and act fast to mitigate the risk of wildfires. My Administration is investing billions from our Bipartisan Infrastructure Law in forest management, including the management of hazardous fuels in high-risk areas and funding the Community Wildfire Defense Grants, which are intended to help at-risk local communities and Tribes plan and reduce the risk against wildfire, and we are safeguarding mature and old-growth forests on Federal lands, a key component of decreasing fire risk. Through our Inflation Reduction Act, we are taking unprecedented steps to protect forest health, prevent fires, and confront the climate crisis — ushering in a new era of clean energy and reducing greenhouse gas emissions by a billion metric tons.
We are standing by our brave firefighters by substantially increasing wages for Federal wildland firefighters, and have implemented new programs to support their mental and physical health, and established a wildland firefighter job series that will help improve recruitment, retention, and opportunities for professional growth. We invested $350 billion from our American Rescue Plan to help States and cities keep first responders like firefighters on the job during the COVID-19 pandemic. To help States pay for the cost of fighting wildfires and help communities increase resilience, the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) has also approved dozens of Fire Management Assistance Grants and is providing over one billion dollars through its Building Resilient Infrastructure and Communities (BRIC) program.
To build on these actions, my Administration is educating the public on fire safety. This week’s theme — “Fire won’t wait. Plan your escape” — emphasizes how we must all prepare fire escape plans, test smoke and carbon monoxide alarms every month and replace them every 10 years, implement appropriate building codes, and when possible, install residential fire sprinklers. For those who live in areas susceptible to wildfire, regularly clearing brush and other vegetation around your homes is another important way to stay safe.
With every home, school, and business destroyed in a fire, precious memories are lost, livelihoods are jeopardized, and dreams are crushed. This National Fire Prevention Week, let us reflect on the importance of remaining vigilant and learning more about fire safety. Let us acknowledge the remarkable service of our Nation’s firefighters and honor the memory of those who have lost their lives protecting others. And let us all work to make these heroes’ jobs more manageable, keep our neighbors safer, and reduce the risk of fires across our country.
NOW, THEREFORE, I, JOSEPH R. BIDEN JR., President of the United States of America, by virtue of the authority vested in me by the Constitution and the laws of the United States, do hereby proclaim October 9 through October 15, 2022, as Fire Prevention Week. On Sunday, October 9, 2022, in accordance with Public Law 107–51, the flag of the United States will be flown at half-staff at all Federal office buildings in honor of the National Fallen Firefighters Memorial Service. I call on all Americans to participate in this observance with appropriate programs and activities and by renewing their efforts to prevent fires and their tragic consequences.
In 2021, 148 firefighters died in the line of duty and will be honored in this year’s tribute in Emmitsburg, Maryland, Flags Express reported. Their names will be added to the National Memorial.
The first time that flags were flown half-staff to honor fallen firefighters for this day of observance was October 16, 2001, Flags Express reported. After that year, Public Law 107-51 allowed for the half-staff observance to occur every year.
Flag Half-Staff Traditions
It’s customary to only display the American flag from sunrise to sunset unless the flag is well illuminated overnight. In those cases, the flag might be displayed 24 hours a day. A number of holidays call for U.S. flags to be lowered to half-staff every year. In addition, the president of the United States may order a proclamation for the flags to fly half-staff when someone of prominence dies or when there is a national tragedy. State governors may also call for national flags to be flown at half-staff in their state when a present or former government official dies.
If you’re wondering about the terms half-mast versus half-staff, in the United States half-mast refers to flags being lowered on a ship, while half-staff refers to a pole on the ground or a building, according to the Naval History and Heritage Command’s blog The Sextant. However, outside the United States, the more commonly used term is actually half-mast, according to The Sextant. The terms tend to be used interchangeably in common vernacular.