Symbolism of Substance: The LAFD Seal

Thursday, July 24, 2008 |

The Official Seal of the Los Angeles Fire DepartmentThe Official Seal of the Los Angeles Fire Department is of great significance to the men and women of the LAFD.

Emblematic of our organization and its culture, the Official Seal appears on many Fire Department documents and is displayed ceremoniously on flags, banners and lecterns. It also serves as the basis for a popular collector's edition patch.

We welcome you to learn more about this inspiring symbol.


The Official Seal of the Los Angeles Fire Department is round to symbolize uniform and eternal vigilance.


The mythical Phoenix, an eternal "bird of fire", symbolizes power, tradition and the cycle of nature. Upon our Seal, the mature bird's claws are not extended, rather they are secured firmly about the axe, a traditional tool in the battle against fire, signifying the importance of physical strength and control.


Our contemporary version of the Maltese Cross has four branches representing the indestructible and at times adversarial elements ever-present in a Firefighter's realm: Fire, Water, Earth and Air.

The actual cross used by the Knights of Malta, a more geometric version of this famed symbol, has a pair of distinct points upon each of the four branches. These are said to denote eight noble aspirations:

  • To Live in Truth

  • To Have Faith

  • To be Repentant of Sins

  • To Give Proof of Humility

  • To Love Justice

  • To be Merciful

  • To be Sincere and Whole-Hearted, and

  • To Endure Persecution.


Emblazoned upon the center of our Maltese Cross is the Coat of Arms from our City's Official Seal, which is also found on the badge worn by every Los Angeles Firefighter. Its presence dignifies the history of our City and honors our central purpose of courageously protecting its people. The lion and the castle symbolize the Arms of Spain and represent Los Angeles under Spanish rule from 1542-1821. The eagle and serpent portray the Arms of Mexico and of Los Angeles under Mexican rule from 1822-1846. The Bear Flag shows the valiant spirit of the new California Republic of 1846, while the Stars and Stripes boldly indicate a modern day Los Angeles that is a proud and deeply patriotic part of a nation and people united.


The Helmet symbolizes our commitment to safety, as well as signifying our respect for knowledge, wisdom, character and being.


The "Star of Life"; is a six barred blue cross representing the six critical elements of Emergency Medical Services (EMS) which we are honored and trusted to optimize:
  • Detection

  • Reporting

  • Response

  • On-Scene Care

  • Care in Transit

  • Transfer to Definitive Care


The single coiled Serpent and Staff upon the Star of Life are representative of Asclepius, the Greek god of healing.


The Bugle signifies the importance of clear communication and unified command. It is symbolic of the trumpets and megaphones that were historically used to coordinate firefighting efforts.


The Ladder symbolizes the growing structure of our vocation, as well as signifying the importance of a Firefighter's willingness to rise up and overcome any challenge.

We welcome you to visit a Los Angeles Fire Station and see how these virtues are embodied in the men and women of the LAFD.

Submitted by Brian Humphrey, Spokesman
Los Angeles Fire Department


Anonymous said...

This is very interesting, is the bird on the badge also a Phoenix?

LAFD Media and Public Relations said...

Anonymous 5:36,

While much of the LAFD's intradepartmental literature refers to the bird atop our official badge as being an eagle, many people interpret the bird as being emblematic of the fictional Phoenix, which itself takes countless forms in modern literature and graphics.

Thanks for your interest in the Los Angeles Fire Department.

Respectfully Yours in Safety and Service,

Brian Humphrey
Public Service Officer
Los Angeles Fire Department

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