V.F.D. is a fictional secret organization within the book series A Series of Unfortunate Events by Lemony Snicket dedicated to keeping the world quiet and extinguished. V.F.D. is commonly used as an acronym to various related terms used by the organization, which helps to increase the reader's confusion of what the initials actually stand for. The Baudelaires excepted, the meanings are perfectly clear to the organization's members.
V.F.D. was first mentioned in The Austere Academy when Duncan and Isadora Quagmire were kidnapped by the villainous Count Olaf. The Baudelaires heard the Quagmires scream "V.F.D!" , however the Quagmires were taken away before they could say anything further. There are mentions of V.F.D. in every book in the series following The Austere Academy. The theme becomes increasingly prominent in subsequent volumes as the Baudelaire orphans investigate the initials' true meaning, and it appears to figure centrally in their parents' deaths and the schemes of their enemy, Count Olaf. It eventually transpires that it is the name of a secret organization. The Slippery Slope suggests that V.F.D. stands for 'Volunteer Fire Department', among other things; in The End Lemony Snicket's narration confirms that 'Volunteer Fire Department' is the correct meaning of the initials. In The Grim Grotto, it is revealed that while this was the origin of the organization, its members had many other interests.
While the name "Volunteer Fire Department" connotes a group that actively puts out fires (metaphorically as well as literally, according to Kit Snicket), it can be read to mean a group that actively starts fires, which indeed happens when the group is split because of a schism. One group of schismatics puts out fires and the other group sets fires. When the schism occurred and exactly why it occurred is unknown, except that it was in the childhood of Kit Snicket and Dewey Denouement and that it appears that a line has been drawn between those who stop fires and those who start them. The members of the former are called "volunteers" and the members of the latter are called "villains". The "volunteers" often appear to be desperate, in that their situation seems to be one of dire straits. It is openly stated that the "villains" are growing more powerful and the "volunteers" weaker; however, the epilogue of the thirteenth and final book suggests that after the events there of, the "volunteer" half of the organization seems to have survived or recovered, while the "villain" half has returned to its former power.
The protagonists of the series (Violet, Klaus, and Sunny Baudelaire) discover that their parents were members of this secret organization, as were many of the guardians they were placed with after their parents' death, along with various other people they encounter throughout the books.
The organization makes use of many codes, most notably the Sebald Code. Other codes used include:
A mysterious sugar bowl is of value to members on both sides of the schism, of which it is stated to be the cause and serves as a MacGuffin to drive the story in later books. Despite it and its contents being pursued by volunteers, villains, and the Baudelaires, its significance is never revealed and it does not appear in the final book of the series. The one hint to its true meaning is the remark, "it isn't the sugar bowl that's important, it's what's inside it". The sugar bowl is known to have belonged to Esmé Squalor, who thinks that Beatrice stole it from her (this instigates her hatred toward the Baudelaires). However, Snicket admits to have stolen it and states that he later ponders whether it was right to do so or not.
In Lemony Snicket: The Unauthorized Autobiography, many occurrences of V.F.D. are seen; more importantly, it reveals much more about the nature of V.F.D. as an organization:
The following is a list of locations with V.F.D. activity.
The following is a table depicting all of the known members of V.F.D. and the role of each member in the plot. As some characters' V.F.D. membership is only assumed or implied in the books, this list may not be absolutely accurate.
|Lemony Snicket||Author of the books||Mysterious researcher who records and publishes the unfortunate events of the Baudelaire lives. Has an unknown role in the fire-stopping side of V.F.D. Possibly co-researcher with Dewey Denouement.||Alive (whereabouts unknown)|
|Jacques Snicket||Lemony and Kit Snicket's brother||Was framed for being Count Olaf (due to their similar appearance) and to be burned at the stake in the Village of Fowl Devotees, but was instead murdered by the real Count Olaf, who then blamed it on the three Baudelaire children.||Dead (see left)|
|Kit Snicket||Lemony and Jacques Snicket's sister and previously Mrs. K at Prufrock Preparatory School.||Mentioned a few times in the Grim Grotto, and takes the Baudelaires away in a taxi at the end of the book.||Dead (died of the Medusoid Mycelium while giving birth to her child Beatrice)|
|Ike and Josephine Anwhistle||Third guardian of Baudelaire orphans||Both were apparently devoured by the Lachrymose leeches on separate occasions, although it is possible that Aunt Josephine did not die, as Lemony Snicket has never directly stated that she died. Ike died before the Baudelaires were put into their care, but Josephine was tossed out of a boat by Count Olaf.||Most Likely Dead (Lachrymose leeches)|
|Dr. Gustav Sebald||film director & Dr. Montgomery's former assistant||Uses the Sebald code in his films to pass on coded messages to volunteers. Uncle Monty's old assistant.||Dead (murdered by Count Olaf)|
|Sally Sebald||Sister of Dr. Gustav Sebald||Heir to the Sebald estate. Claimed to be, in a letter to Lemony Snicket, the "Executrix of the Sebald Estate."||Unknown|
|Hector||Previous resident of the Village of Fowl Devotees and the seventh Baudelaire guardian.||Escaped with Isadora and Duncan Quagmire in the Self-Sustaining Hot-Air Mobile Home at the end of The Vile Village||Unknown (said by Kit during The End to have been taken away by the Great Unknown)|
|Bertrand and Beatrice Baudelaire||Most likely members of V.F.D.||Parents of the Baudelaire orphans, presumed to have been killed in a mansion fire (although it is suggested that there was a survivor). In The Penultimate Peril, it is implied that the Baudelaire parents were involved in the murder of Olaf's parents by poison darts.||Probably dead (fire)|
|Isadora, Duncan, and Quigley Quagmire||Orphaned triplets and heirs to the Quagmire Sapphires||The Baudelaires met and befriended Duncan (an aspiring journalist) and Isadora (a poet) at Prufrock Preparatory School. Quigley was thought to have perished in the fire that killed the Quagmire parents, but is discovered alive in The Slippery Slope. He is a cartographer.||Unknown (said by Kit during The End to have been taken away by the Great Unknown)|
|Captain Widdershins||Submarine captain||Stepfather of Fiona and Fernald (the hook-handed man). His personal philosophy is "He who hesitates is lost"||Unknown (said by Kit during The End to have been taken away by the Great Unknown)|
|Dr. Montgomery Montgomery||Herpetologist||Second and most beloved guardian of the Baudelaires. Actual involvement is debatable; he never learnt the Sebald code, but has V.F.D. books in his library, his collection of snakes was used by V.F.D. and he intended to travel on the "Prospero".||Dead (injected with snake venom by Count Olaf)|
|Mr. and Mrs. Quagmire||Unknown||Parents of Isadora, Duncan, and Quigley Quagmire. Died in the fire that destroyed their home. Mother hid Quigley in a secret passage leading to Montgomery Montgomery's house.||Dead (fire)|
|Ishmael||The facilitator of an island of castaways||Ishmael was one of the first castaways, and he knew the Baudelaire parents. Also, Count Olaf reveals that Ishmael has a V.F.D. tattoo.||Probably alive (was exposed to Medusoid Mycelium, but had hybrid apples as antidote)|
|Larry||Waiter at the Anxious Clown restaurant||Suspected member of V.F.D, he uses the phrase "I didn't realize this was a sad occasion" and works at the Anxious Clown restaurant suspected to have V.F.D. members disguised as waiters.||Unknown|
|Frank Denouement||Hotel Manager at the Hotel Denouement||One of the identical Denouement triplets||Unknown (last seen in burning Hotel Denouement)|
|Dewey Denouement||Sub-Sub Librarian||One of the identical Denouement triplets. Implied that he is the father of Kit Snicket's baby.||Dead (Count Olaf hurriedly pushes the harpoon gun into the Baudelaires' hands, presumably to act "innocent," and the harpoon gun falls and accidentally goes off. It impales Dewey in the chest and he utters a "pained, choking gasp" before stumbling backward into the pond. His last word was "Kit" for Kit Snicket and he sinks into the pond and dies, still clutching the harpoon at his chest. The children finally tell Kit that Dewey is dead in The End)|
|Count Olaf||Impresario||The Baudelaires' first guardian, intent (often irrationally) on acquiring both the Baudelaire and Quagmire fortunes. Previous member of V.F.D. before the schism. Implied, like Dewey Denouement, to have been the father of Kit Snicket's child.||Dead (died from Harpoon wound )|
|Esmé Squalor||Financial advisor||Sixth guardian of the Baudelaires. Olaf's girlfriend for books 7-12 (they broke up at the end of The Penultimate Peril).||Unknown (last seen in burning Hotel Denouement)|
|Geraldine Julienne||Reporter||Reported the Baudelaire case inaccurately, and locked her editor in the basement on Esmé Squalor's orders; she seems otherwise clueless of V.F.D. activity.||Unknown (last seen in burning Hotel Denouement)|
|The man with a beard, but no hair||High Court judge||Probably one of the lead villains, considered above even Count Olaf.||Unknown (last seen in burning Hotel Denouement)|
|The woman with hair, but no beard||High Court judge||Probably one of the lead villains, considered above even Count Olaf.||Unknown (last seen in burning Hotel Denouement)|
|Dr. Georgina Orwell||Hypnotist/Eye Doctor||Conspired with Olaf to steal the orphan's fortune. While there is no solid evidence that she is a V.F.D. member, she does possess a jeweled cane that transforms into a sword, which is mentioned in Lemony Snicket: The Unauthorized Autobiography as part of the 'optometrist' disguise.||Dead (she was killed when she stepped backward into a log cutter)|
|Ernest Denouement||Hotel Manager at the Hotel Denouement||One of the identical Denouement triplets.||Unknown (last seen in burning Hotel Denouement)|
|Olivia Caliban/Madame Lulu||Fortune teller at Caligari Carnival||Helped Olaf locate the Baudelaires, and later "fell" into a pit of lions. Could be Friday's (The End) aunt, as it is mentioned that a postcard from Kit Snicket to Olivia Caliban washes up on the shores of the island.||Dead (eaten by lions)|
|Fiona||Mycologist||Stepdaughter of Captain Widdershins. She joined Count Olaf in The Grim Grotto to be close to her brother Fernald, however, in The Penultimate Peril, Count Olaf states that she and her brother took off on a search for their stepfather, Captain Widdershins. Kit Snicket claims that the pair found their stepfather at the end of The End.||Unknown (said by Kit to have been taken by the Great Unknown)|
|Fernald, the "hook-handed man"||Actor||Stepson of Captain Widdershins and brother to Fiona. Didn't get along with his stepfather and subsequently joined V.F.D. as one of Count Olaf's henchmen. He later left Olaf on a mission to find his stepfather with his sister, Fiona. Kit Snicket claims that the pair found their stepfather at the end of The End.||Unknown (said by Kit to have been taken by the Great Unknown)|