Fire trucks are large, specialized machines that not only transport firefighters to the scene of an emergency, but also carry pumps and water tanks, hoses, ladders, and a wide variety of tools. They are often used to fight fires in dense urban areas, but can also be called upon when wildland fires emerge or when departments need to respond to dangerous chemical accidents and technical rescues in remote and rugged areas.
They’re categorized into seven types and must meet certain minimum requirements for tank capacity, pump flow, hose length, and personnel. Some units are designated as triple combination rigs, which means they combine the three essential components of fire control: water, pumps, and hose.
The water tank holds hundreds of gallons, and the firefighters use it to create a powerful stream of water that’s often used to extinguish the fire. It’s then pumped through a hose to connect to a fire hydrant that’s an important water connection point that can help the firefighters tap into another source of water.
These vehicles are usually equipped with long ladders that extend telescopically to provide access to high buildings. They’re popular in high-density jurisdictions, and they allow firefighters to reach higher levels of buildings than engines or ladder trucks can.
While not as big and powerful as aerial ladder fire engines, these units are popular with smaller and more specialized fire departments because of their ability to bring a wide range of equipment to a scene. Some units even have rotating telescopic ladders to provide the same level of access as an aerial, but with the added benefit of rotation so firefighters can work from all sides.
They are generally sized according to the needs of the specific department they serve. Type 1 and 2 units are the largest – and have the highest minimum requirements — while Types 5 through 7 have a smaller footprint but a lower GVWR.
The hoses are typically non-collapsible, so they can be quickly deployed without having to pull the hose off the reel. These hoses can then be stowed away when not in use. Some engines feature preconnects, which means that a hose line has been connected to the hose reel before the engine arrives at the scene. This helps the firefighters save time because they don’t have to worry about finding a hose line when they arrive.
Some of these trucks have articulating booms that can be extended to the side or rear, allowing them to climb over obstacles like trees and brush. A few of them can also rotate at the end of their boom to provide access for the firefighters inside the building.
There are many different kinds of hoses available on fire trucks, and some are more durable than others. Some are made of hard-rubber that won’t collapse when the hose is deployed. Some have a reel that can be easily pulled out and charged with water, so it’s ready for deployment.