The tradition of bagpipes being played at a fire department funeral in the United States dates back over one hundred and fifty years. When the Irish and Scottish immigrated to this country, they brought many of their traditions with them. One of these was the bagpipe, often played at Celtic weddings, funerals, and dances. It wasn't until the great potato famine and massive Irish immigration to the East Coast of the United States that the tradition of the pipes really took hold in fire departments. The only jobs they could get were the ones no one else wanted - jobs that were dirty, dangerous, or both - firefighters and police officers.
It was not an uncommon event to have several firefighters killed at a working fire. Those who have ever been to funerals when bagpipes play know how haunting and mournful the sound of the pipes can be; before too long, families and friends of non-Irish firefighters began asking for the piper to play for these fallen heroes. The pipes add a special air and dignity to the solemn occasion. Today the tradition is universal. The pipes have come to be a distinguishing feature of a fallen hero's funeral.