The insignia of the fire service is the Cross Pattee-Nowy, otherwise known as the Maltese Cross. The cross represents the fire service ideals of saving lives and extinguishing fires.
The fire service borrows the emblem of the cross from the Knights of St. John of Jerusalem (Knights Hospitallers), a charitable, non-military, organization that existed during the 11th and 12th centuries that helped the sick and poor in setting up hospices and hospitals. Later, they assisted the Knights of the Crusades through their goodwill and also through military assistance in an effort to the Island of Malta, the island for which the Maltese Cross was named.
The need for an identifiable emblem for the knights had become crucial. Due to the extensive armor which covered their entire bodies and faces, the knights were unable to distinguish friend from foe in battle. They chose the cross of Calvary as their symbol, since they fought their battles as a holy cause. The cross was later called the "Maltese Cross" and represented the principles of charity, loyalty, chivalry, gallantry, generosity to friend and foe, protection of the weak and dexterity in service.
During the Crusades, many knights became fire fighters out of necessity. Their enemies had resorted to throwing glass bombs containing naptha and sailing their war vessels containing naptha, rosin, sulfur, and flaming oil into the vessels of the knights. Many knights were called to perform heroic deeds by rescuing fellow knights and extinguishing fires. In acknowledgement of these feats, the cross worn by these knights was decorated and inscribed. This was considered a most honorable acclaim.