Apart from when they're speeding down the street and rapidly approaching from behind with piercing lights flashing and deafening horns blaring, most people pay little to no attention to the lowly fire truck. These trucks, and especially the firefighters who drive them and utilize them, should never be taken for granted, though. They do serious, important, and lifesaving work. Obviously, we're all thankful for everything that firefighters do, from putting out fires (obviously) to saving people from car crashes, whether the victims' cars are on fire or they're trapped inside. Firefighters are trained, equipped, and brave enough to help. The equipment they use to get the job done is quite advanced and impressive, especially when it comes to their fire trucks and other vehicles they employ.
Since their development, there have been a wide variety of different incarnations and versions of the fire truck. From their very beginning as horse-drawn, steam-powered pumps to what we see today—powerful, advanced, and capable machines—the fire truck has, no doubt, saved millions of lives. But the actual technology doesn't tend to get much in the way of the spotlight. As we stated before, most people pay no mind to a fire truck besides pulling over to the shoulder. But there are a lot of interesting facts and details about the truck that helps firefighters save lives—facts and details that a lot of people don't know about. So, let's take a look at 20 fast facts that most people don't know about fire trucks.
20 The First Fire Engine Was Found In Ancient Greece
While the fire truck pictured above may be from Greece, it most definitely isn't the first fire truck to have ever been invented. It's said that the first fire brigade originated in ancient Greece as commissioned by Marcus Licinius Crassus.
This first fire brigade obviously didn't involve any kind of actual trucks but instead relied upon the aqueduct systems found throughout ancient Greece.
This is where we find the oldest evidence anyway. The journey to the fire truck we see today is a fascinating one and involved a few intermediary steps along the way. We'll see the next big one next.
19 Fire Engines Used To Be Horse Drawn
Back before the invention of the combustible engine and transmission with four wheels—the car—was invented, firefighters relied on horses to help them put out fires. The horses, lined up and arranged as if they were pulling a carriage, instead pulled a giant steam machine that could spray water onto burning buildings. The horses added a vast amount of mobility to an invention that was already familiar to most people. But with the addition, brigades could be formed and be dispatched to fires. The first trailblazers in the industry were found in Europe, London especially.
18 Dalmatians Weren't Just Fashion Accessories
Most people these days have never actually seen a dalmatian helping out a fire department. They may remember a time when the breed would ride on old fire trucks with the firemen or when they had them at the fire stations, but these days, firemen no longer use dalmatians, and if they have them, they really are just a fashion statement.
But back when fire trucks were horse-drawn carriages, dalmatians would run ahead of the horses and clear the path for them so they could get to fires faster than otherwise.
Pretty cool. They were originally chosen because their breed was really good at working with horses.
17 As Long As Cars Have Been Around, So Have Fire Trucks
Since the advent of the car, the fire truck was hot on the heels of it—not so hot as to start a fire, of course, but close enough to say that they virtually went hand in hand, rapidly gaining popularity in England by the turn of the century. From England, it spread across the globe, especially into America. It only makes sense, as, at the time, they were using horses to pull their firefighting machines. This greatly aided their response time and paved the way for the specialization of firefighting machines.
16 There Are Three Different Types Of Firefighting Machines
There are three different kinds of firefighting machines. There's the pumper truck, there's the tanker truck, and then, there's the ladder truck, all of which serve different but equally important roles in aiding firefighters. Sometimes, a fire truck will be able to do the job of two different types. The pumper truck holds hoses and connects to fire hydrants, allowing the firefighters to connect to a virtually unlimited water source. The tanker truck holds a mobile water source for the firefighters, though limited. The ladder truck will bring the ladder, which can stretch to some pretty extreme heights.
15 There's A Big Difference Between "Fire Engine" And "Fire Truck"
Okay, so there isn't a big difference, per se, but they aren't exactly interchangeable, and if firefighters catch you using them wrong or interchangeably, they'll probably correct you on it. The issue is that they refer to different trucks.
A fire engine is usually first to the scene, carrying water, flame retardants, hoses etc, while the fire truck is more designed to carry the firefighters, along with any other rescue tools they might need, to the scene.
So essentially, the fire engine is everything you need to fight the fire itself, whereas the fire truck carries the firefighters and other useful tools.
14 "Hook And Ladder" Is Different Than A Fire Truck
If you ever hear firefighters talking about their job and they mention the "hook and ladder," it might not seem to make any sense what exactly they're referring to. You may gather from the context that it's a fire truck, but it's actually different. It's basically a specialized tractor trailer. A semi with a hook (as it's a trailer) and a ladder (what's on the trailer). They're usually extremely long—as you can see in the picture above—because the ladders they use these days are very tall. This is a little bit different than just a ladder truck, too, because of the trailer.
13 Ladder Trucks Can Operate in 50+MPH Winds
The ladders that firefighters use have become more and more advanced over the decades since their introduction into the essential gear of a firefighting team. These days, they're more advanced, safe, and reliable than ever before.
Operated by pneumatics or hydraulics, they extend to some pretty spectacular heights and are stable enough to be operable in 50-mile-per-hour winds.
Staggering, really. Imagine being hundreds of feet in the air and feeling like you're moving at highway speeds. I'm sure even though it's stable, it would sway something terrible. Sounds really scary.
12 Fire Trucks Are Expensive
Fire trucks are pretty fancy machines—there's no doubt about that. They're loaded to the teeth with all of the highest-quality, most advanced machinery and tools available on the market. All of that state-of-the-art machinery isn't free; it comes at a cost—quite a big cost, too, as fire trucks are really very expensive. Depending on the size, the amount of equipment, and what type of fire engine is being purchased, the price can flex from expensive to really expensive. On average, a firetruck will cost you in the neighborhood of $500,000 all the way up to $1,000,000.
11 There Are Marine, Rural, And Airport Versions Of Fire Trucks
Not all fire engines are created equal. The point of a fire engine is to be as effective, efficient, and capable as possible in putting out fires. Every city, every town, every county, and every area has differing needs, sometimes drastically different needs, which means, naturally, that the kinds of vehicles and tools used will be drastically different. A fire engine used in Seattle, for example, will be specialized for marine use. The same goes for rural firefighting, where a hook and ladder might be entirely unnecessary, and for airport fire engines, which require a completely different set of equipment.
10 A Heavy Rescue Vehicle Is Much Different From A Fire Truck
Heavy rescue vehicles are actually quite a bit different from fire engines and fire trucks. Their main purpose is not to aid in fighting fire directly; that's left to the tanker trucks, pumper trucks, and fire engines. The heavy rescue trucks have other tools, tools used to help rescue people from cars, from being stuck et cetera. They're used in technical rescue situations along with search and rescue operations as needed during a fire.
The heavy rescue vehicle, in a way, is a complement to the fire engines.
It's the truck that helps save people's lives more than it helps put fires out.
9 The Bronto Can Lift A Firefighter Almost 300 Feet Upwards
The Bronto is one of the biggest telescopic platforms in existence. Short for "Brontosaurus," this incredible machine can lift a firefighter high into the sky, over 300 feet up, actually. That's staggering to think about, and while it may not seem like a lot written on a computer screen, when you give it some scale, it becomes a pretty high number. You'd be three football fields in the air. Or standing at the top of the Statue Of Liberty or The Big Ben. That's high. That's really high up. Hopefully, there isn't any wind on that day if you're 300 feet up!
8 The Fastest Fire Engine Is The Hawaiian Eagle
The Hawaiian Eagle isn't the most responsible fire engine even though it may be the fastest. As is evident in the picture above, it's much more efficient at making fire than it is at putting it out. That's because it's rocket-powered. Yep, rocket-powered. This monster is outfitted with not one but two Rolls-Royce Bristol Viper engines.
It holds the world record for the fastest fire truck in existence, reaching a top speed of 407 miles per hour.
Yeah, we're not making this up. Clearly, this fire engine isn't really used for firefighting anymore, but that doesn't mean it isn't the coolest.
7 Tanker Trucks Can Carry More Water Than You Might Think
If you were to guess how much water a tanker truck can carry, how much do you think it would be? My wager is that your guess is way too low. Would you say it's 500 gallons? More than that? 800? 1,000 seems like we're pushing it. But no, in fact, because there are tanker trucks that can hold up to 4,000 gallons of water. That's an incredible amount of water when you start thinking about it. Just imagine how long it would take to fill that thing up! It's amazing how far firefighting technology has come.
6 The Use Of Foam Is Much More Efficient Than Water Alone
If you happen to see firefighters in action, you may sometimes wonder why they're using foam instead of water. It's almost like they're using a giant fire extinguisher to put out a giant fire. It might seem like a lot more work, like a lot more would be involved in using foam over simple water.
But it's actually a lot more efficient, and it's a lot more ergonomic, too.
It takes a lot less foam to put a fire out, and the foam is significantly lighter than water, which makes it a lot easier for firefighters to use the hoses.
5 In Firefighting, A Fine Mist Is Better Than A Stream Of Water
A straight stream of water might be what you think would get a fire out fastest—flood it, and it'll stand no chance of burning. While that may be true when you're looking at flooding the fire with thousands of gallons at once, it's not true with a hose. In fact, a fine mist is much better than a stream of water when it comes to putting out a fire. The water disperses much more, not just suffocating the fire, but cooling it down, and cooling it down over a much vaster area than just a straight stream could ever do.
4 10% Of All Firefighter Deaths Occur In Auto Accidents
It's a sad thing to hear about the death of a firefighter. They're such valiant, heroic, and selfless women and men who put their lives on the line for your and my safety. They risk it all just to save even one. It's even sadder to think that, according to the US Fire Administration, 10% of all firefighter deaths occur in auto accidents. That's a worryingly high number, especially considering how high risk their actual job is. That's why a bright-green firetruck is featured in the picture because it's been proven that green is much more readily visible than red, making firefighter safer in transit.
3 Most Fire Trucks Only Have Around 500 Horsepower
One might think that with all of the technical advancements available and pioneered specifically for firefighters and for fire engines, that they'd have mechanisms, primarily power, suited to their needs, considering they're some of the heaviest trucks out there today. This might seem to be especially true for tankers, laden with thousands and thousands of pounds of water. But you'd be thinking wrong.
The average fire truck or fire engine only has around 500 horsepower.
That seems extremely paltry considering not only their size and weight but the fact that a new Dodge Challenger has 207 more horsepower than one of these machines.
2 Firefighters Use Several Different Types Of Hoses
Booster lines. Deluge hoses. Attack hoses. Supply and relay hoses. Forestry hoses. Suction hoses. These are the primary types of hoses that firefighters use to put out fires, and they all have different uses. For example, an attack hose, like its name, is used from the pumper truck to the nozzle. Supply and relay hoses, naturally, are larger in diameter and are used to bring water from a distant hydrant or to relay between one pumper and another. Forestry hoses are light, easily maneuverable in rough terrain. Suction hoses are used with vacuum to pull water out of a non-pressurized source like a lake or a stream.
1 Firefighting Gear Is Very Heavy
It only seems logical that firefighting gear would be heavy. And that logic is sound.
Fully clothed, all gear considered, a firefighter is hauling an extra 60 pounds on his or her body.
It's all vital, though, because their suits can protect them from flames up to 1,000 degrees Fahrenheit. That's insanely hot, if you ask me, so it comes as no surprise that their gear is so heavy. Firefighters are the true heroes—there's no denying that. Next time you see firefighters out and about, make sure to thank them for all that they do. They deserve it.