Fire trucks are vehicles used by fire departments to carry personnel and equipment to a fire scene. They can be a variety of shapes and sizes, but are usually red in color with lights, sirens and a large cascade of water that indicates they are headed to a fire.
The most common type of fire truck is a Type 1 engine, also known as an “all-purpose” vehicle. It carries firefighters and all of their gear, tools and equipment, as well as a water tank that can hold hundreds of gallons of water to fight the fire.
NFPA standards require Type 1 engines to have a minimum of a 500-gallon water tank, a pump capable of 150 US gallons per minute at 250 pounds per square inch and a foam proportioner system (see image below). They may also be equipped with power-take-off pumps (PTOs) for a greater range of movement while fighting the fire.
In addition to the water tank, most engine trucks also feature a hose reel that can be quickly deployed and stowed away when not in use. Many of these units have a non-collapsible line on the reel, making it easy to deploy and deploy again without having to pull all of the hose off.
Some fire trucks are designed with a winch to tow damaged cars, and have shackles that can be used to secure vehicles as they are lifted into place. Other engines have a boom that can be used to climb up and over obstacles, allowing firefighters to access a confined space from a higher point than on a platform ladder.
A special operations truck, also known as a rescue truck, is designed to carry specialized equipment for rescue operations, including circular saws, cutting torches, cranes, high-lift jacks and winches. They typically have a Gross Vehicle Weight Rating of more than 26,000 lbs. They may also have an emergency air pack to help a crew with oxygen supply and first-aid equipment.
Fire departments often have a command vehicle that is driven by the department’s senior officer, sometimes referred to as the “fly car” or the “fire chief’s car.” These vehicles are commonly based on modified SUVs and pickup trucks and are primarily used for transporting firefighters to fire scenes.
The fire trucks that we see all around us on the road are amazing machines that allow firefighters to get to fires quickly and perform their jobs efficiently. But how do we know what these fire trucks really are?
Unlike the horse-drawn wagons that used to serve as fire apparatuses in North America, today’s trucks have been purpose built and have been adapted for a wide variety of needs.
Some fire trucks are also used to transport first responder-educated firefighters to medical emergencies, because they can arrive faster than ambulances. In some communities, fire departments have a dedicated medical response unit that is not part of the fire department.
Besides these three main types of fire trucks, there are a number of other fire vehicles that are not directly related to firefighting but have important roles in fire department operations. These include a mobile command center, divers units, air units, hazardous materials units and more.