The Story Behind the ‘Firefighter’s Prayer’

By  | 
Tony Maples Photography


Many know the “Firefighter’s Prayer,” but do you know who wrote it and what they were thinking of at the time it was written?

Firefighter’s Prayer

“When I am called to duty, God whenever flames may rage,
Give me the strength to save some life whatever be its age.
Help me to embrace a little child before it’s too late,
Or some older person from the horror of that fate.
Enable me to be alert and hear the weakest shout,
And quickly and efficiently to put the fire out.
I want to fill my calling and give the best in me,
To guard my neighbor and protect his property.
And if according to Your Will I have to lose my life,
Please bless with Your Protecting Hand my children and my wife.”

Today the prayer above is often thought of as simply a poem originally written by Alvin William “Smokey” Linn. According to his granddaughter, Penny McGlachlin, it is so much more. Her grandfather, Smokey Linn, joined the Wichita, Kansas Fire Department in 1947 after returning from World War II. He retired in 1975 and became president of the local chapter of the Good Sam Camping Club. Linn passed away March 31, 2004, of complications following surgery.

Firefighter in SCBA

Photo: Pixabay/skeeze

The end of Linn’s prayer can be found engraved on a memorial in front of the new fire station in Brunswick, Maine.

According to Woodstock Fire, the following was taken from a speech given by Penny McGlachlin at the dedication of the Cook’s Corner Fire Station in Brunswick, Maine on July 15th, 2006.

“Alvin William Linn earned the name “Smokey” when he was 15 by running into his grandfather’s burning barn and driving out his Model T truck. He and the truck made it out in one piece, but the seat of his pants were smoking. This must have been a sign of things to come, because it wasn’t the last time he would charge into a burning building.

When I was about four, I thought my grandfather was born a fireman, lived at the station, and occasionally would visit us at grandmother’s house. I learned a few things on my visits to the station, one was that if you walk in front of a truck being cleaned, someone will inevitably hit the siren button (just to see how high you’ll jump). My grandfather became one of the first Red Cross instructors in Wichita to teach and certify people for C.P.R. and first aid. I was the only eight-year-old in my school that was certified in both, whether I wanted to be or not.

I’ve learned a lot about my grandfather since he left us two years ago. My grandmother told me many stories Grampa never told anyone, such as his time in the Coast Guard during WW II on a ship in the North Atlantic that was hit by a torpedo from a Japanese submarine. He was one of the few survivors. But most stories were about what had happened on the job. After each shift, he would come home and tell his family about the runs he’d been on. Some were more difficult than others.

A.W. “Smokey” Linn wrote “A Fireman’s Prayer” after he’d been at a call involving children trapped in a burning apartment building. The firefighters could see the children in the windows but could not rescue them due to the iron bars that the apartment owner had installed. All they could do was try to contain the fire. About one in the morning, Smokey found himself sitting at the station’s kitchen table putting into words the emotions inside of him from that evening.

The words to The Fireman’s Prayer are one man’s prayer (a man who was more than a fireman) to his Lord and Savior. He was a husband, father, grandfather, and a son who knew how precious and short life can be.”

Praying Firefighters

Photo: Flickr/Forest Service Northern Region

The “Fireman’s Prayer” was originally published in a book called, “A Celebration of Poets” in 1958. The last copyright of the book was 1998. It is the family’s desire that the credit for the Firemen’s Prayer go to the author, A.W. Smokey Linn.

The “Fireman’s Prayer” is often accompanied by the “Fireman’s Wife’s Prayer,” whose author is unknown.

Firefighters spraying water Firefighter's Prayer on flames

Photo: Pixabay

Fireman’s Wife’s Prayer

“The table’s set, the meal’s prepared, our guests will soon arrive,
My husband once more disappears with a hope of keeping a child alive. While waiting at home alone, our plans having gone awry,
My first impulse is merely to sit right down and cry.
But soon again I realize the importance of my life,
When I agreed to take on the duties of being a fireman’s wife.
While there are many drawbacks, I’ll take them in my stride,
Knowing “My Daddy saved a life” our children can say with pride.
The gusting winds and raging flames may be his final fate,
But with God’s help I can remain my fireman’s faithful mate.”

–Author Unknown