November 1979, seventeen members of the Washington DC Fire Department met at the Knights of Columbus Hall in College Park, MD. That turned out to be our first meeting. Emerald Societies were in existence in New York since the early 1950’s and with the influx of New Yorkers to our fire department ranks in the late 1970’s, it brought up questions why we did not have an Emerald Society in DC. Names like Murphy, Kelly, Flaherty, Healy, Reilley, McCoy, McClafferty, Dinkle, Harrington and Jones were present at the first meetings. The Fire Department had always marched in uniform as a unit in the St. Patrick’s Day Parade in Washington but usually went their separate ways after the parade. It was decided if we had an organized group, an Emerald Society, we could rent a hall after the parade and bring our families, friends and co-workers together to meet and enjoy each other's company. Firefighters work unusual shifts and sometimes miss out on family oriented activities, making it doubly important that we have activities where we can safely spend some time bonding with our families. Since we organized, our uniformed marching unit has marched in every St. Patrick’s Day Parade in DC and for the last few years in Alexandria, VA. The Unit has also traveled to New York City to march in there parade and small groups have gone as far as north Boston, MA and south to Savannah, GA. We also had the great experience of marching in Dublin, Ireland in 1983, 1985, 1987 and 1993 where family and friend all marched together.
The Emerald Society formed as a fraternal organization and is composed mostly of Firefighters many with an Irish background. An Irish background has never been a requirement to be a member, nor is being a DC Firefighter required. Our ranks are open to all members of all Fire Departments in the DC Metro area and their families. We are listed and incorporated as the Emerald Society of Washington DC. The Emerald Society is very proud of its openness to all members of all departments be they Firefighters, EMS-personnel, Communications, Apparatus Support Units or anyone who wants to be a member with Irish or Fire related interest. Our motto has always been that the Emerald Society is the one organization that all can join. Our membership in the 1980’s was about 100 and has grown to over 800 in the 1990's. We have members from virtually all fire departments in the metro area. A great mixture of ethnic backgrounds, with a central core of Irish Ancestry as the driving force of our activities.
This Irish organization’s main objective is to promote friendship through family unity and involvement. We are a social group that takes no political positions in the fire department or government policy but rely on and support our Firefighters Union Local 36. We feel there is great need to bring families together and our success in this area has been overwhelming. The Emerald Society supports many activities during the year including our St. Patrick’s Day Parade and Party, crab feasts/family picnics, fishing tournament, softball and bowling leagues, golf tournaments, ski trips and ending our year with a Christmas party. We work with and support charities such as HEROES, Washington Hospital Center Burn Center, Children’s Hospital, Special Olympics, Ronald McDonald House and Muscular Dystrophy. In the past years the Society has donated over $50,000 to these worthwhile charities and given thousands of hours of their time.
We are proud of the DC Fire Department and thank them for the strong support they have given us during the past 28 years and we are looking forward to many more years of friendship and cooperation. We stand ready to lend support where it is needed to keep the family spirit alive, and to help provide our members the opportunity to meet with people with similar interest in other departments. One of the most important things this Society can do is to help keep the morale high by keeping the lines of communications open. Only by working together can we all move forward. The membership of the Emerald Society is proud of its Irish heritage and proud of the many accomplishments and contributions that the Irish have brought to the fire service and to this great country.
Compiled June 4, 1996 by Bill Kelly, DCFD-Retired, Emerald Society Historian