How to Address a Firefighter

How to Address a Firefighter?  Retired Firefighter?

How would you address a county or municipal fire fighter?  What about retired firefighters?  Would you follow the same rules as one would with active duty and retired armed services personnel since many public safety organizations follow a similar rank structure as our armed services? Do I mention the fire department? E.g. Los Angeles Fire Department (LAFD).    Would it be proper to use?
LAFD Captain Robert Esposito, (Retired)
—-—-—-—-– ALR

Dear ALR,  How to Address a Firefighter

Officially current firefighters are formally addressed by rank + name.  Municipal fire departments have a variety of ranks, but captain, lieutenant, and firefighter are common.

—-Envelope or address block on letter or email:
—-—-(Rank) (Full Name), (Postnominal for Department)

——–Which looks like
—-—-—-Lieutenant Brian Sullivan, FDNY
—-—-—-Engine 74
—-—-—-120 W 83rd St, New York, NY 10024

—-Salutation: How to Address a Firefighter
—-Dear (Rank)(Surname)

——–Which looks like
————Dear Lieutenant Sullivan

Socially firefighters are likely not to use their rank. On personal correspondence, address as a private citizen.

—-Mr./Ms. (Full name)

—-Mr. and Mrs. (Full name)

—-Mr. (Full name)
—-and Ms. (Full name)


Robert Hickey author of “Honor & Respect”

Retired Firefighters: If a firefighter wants to continue using his/her rank in retirement, it is at his/her preference.

In speaking to many departments, they tell me that sometimes high retired officials do use their ranks in the context of ‘being a retired officer’ (e.g., at a retired officer’s meeting) … and they may use is socially among friends and family. The ranks they tend use in retirement include the ranks noted above under current firefighters, but also chief.

If they take a job when retired, they don’t use their rank in a civilian work situation. This is the same as the armed services which prohibit retired personnel from using ranks or ratings at another job. You can’t have a retired Chief selling fire equipment back to his department and wanting to be addressed by rank!

—-Official envelope:
—-—-Captain Robert Esposito, LAPD Retired
—-—-Captain Robert Esposito, LAPD Ret.

Neither the post-nominal for the department (NYFD, LAFD, CFD, etc.) nor the ‘Retired’ is noted on social correspondence.  These patterns are the same as in the U.S. Armed services. For more on this see Use of Rank by Retired Personnel.

– Robert Hickey How to Address a Firefighter


Robert Hickey author of “Honor & Respect”

When Should You Use the Forms on this Page?

You can use these forms of address for any mode of communication: addressing a letter, invitation, card or Email. (If there are differences between the official and social forms of address, I will have mentioned the different forms.)  The form noted in the salutation is the same form you say when you say their name in conversation or when you greet them.
___What I don’t cover on this site are many things I do cover in my book: all the rules of forms of address, about names, international titles, precedence, complimentary closes, details on invitations, place cards, all sorts of introductions, etc. I hope you’ll get a copy of the book if you’d like the further detail.

Not Finding Your Answer?

—-#1)  At right on desktops, at the bottom of every page on tablets and phones, is a list of all the offices, officials & topics covered on the site.

—-#2)  If you don’t see the official you seek included or your question answered send me an e-mail. I am pretty fast at sending a reply: usually the next day or so (unless I am traveling.)  Note: I don’t have mailing or Email addresses for any of the officials and I don’t keep track of offices that exist only in history books.

—-#3)  If I think your question is of interest to others, Sometimes I post the question  – but always change all the specifics.

— Robert Hickey 


Robert Hickey author of “Honor & Respect”