Fire engine

From Academic Kids

Engine 4 in
Engine 4 in Chico, California

A fire engine is one of many specialized fire suppression apparatuses. A fire engine is designed to pump water using an engine and onboard water supply, which can be replenished via a fire hydrant, water tender or any other available water source by using suction. Engines are also known as pumpers as they are used to pump water onto fires. Their primary purpose is for direct fire suppression, and may carry many tools including ladders, pike poles, axes, fire extinguishers, and ventilating equipment. Engines are normally staffed with at least three people (a captain, an engineer, and a firefighter, and preferably with a second firefighter), to be able to effectively and safely attack a fire.

According to the Oxford English Dictionary the term fire engine was first used in the 17th century, in exactly the same sense it has now, "a machine for throwing water to extinguish fires".

Truck 5 in Chico
Truck 5 in Chico
Missing image

Modern-day firefighters can be assigned to engine companies or ladder companies, reflecting very different professional practices. There are also rescue/medical companies with their own distinctive vehicles, including ambulances and heavy rescue or support trucks.

A fire truck is differentiated from a fire engine in that it has no onboard water supply. Fire trucks are instead equipped with a mix of: long ladders, hydraulic platforms, additional firefighting equipment, a variety of heavy rescue tools, extrication equipment, and other emergency gear. The hook-and-ladder is the best-known form of fire truck, but there are also snorkel, or cherry-picker, rigs, floodlight trucks and other specialized units. A "Tiller Truck" requires two drivers, as it has separate steering wheels for front and rear wheels. Trucks often operate in a support role to the Engine in Fire Attack. They are used for rooftop ventilation, to let hot smoke and gases out so firefighters may enter. Other Truck operations include Search and Rescue. Larger departments may have truck crews of 4 or 5 persons, while others may cross-staff an Engine and Truck, or assign one driver to deliver the Truck to the fire scene. A Quint, or Quintuple Combination Pumper, functions as a mix of an Engine and a Truck by carrying its own water and pump like an Engine as well as elevating ladders and more equipment like a Truck. In the United States these are most often found on the East Coast, or where staffing levels are not high enough for multiple vehicles.

Missing image
A modern fire truck used as a mobile command center, in Helsinki, Finland.
Support 42 - Butte County, CA., USA
Support 42 - Butte County, CA., USA
Missing image
Paris fire brigade (here shown parading)
Missing image
a fire engine in Lausanne.

In some communities a fire apparatus, often a Paramedic Engine, will be used to carry paramedics or EMTs to medical emergencies because of their faster response times due to forward staging in the city compared to ambulances coming from hospitals. This sometimes puzzles people who see a fire apparatus race past but do not see any fire, but medical calls often outnumber fire calls for such departments.

On occasion, fire engines have also been used as water cannons for crowd control.


Brief history of firefighting equipment

Old-fashioned fire engine
Old-fashioned fire engine
Missing image
historical fire engine
Missing image
Fire engine from the third Reich

Ctesibius of Alexandria is credited with inventing the first fire pump around the second century B.C. The fire pump was reinvented in Europe during the 1500s, reportedly used in Augsburg in 1518 and Nuremburg in 1657. A book of 1655 inventions mentions a steam engine (called "fire engine") pump used to "raise a column of water 40 feet," but there was no mention of whether it was portable.

Colonial laws in America required each house to have a bucket of water on the front stoop (especially at night) in case of fire, for the initial "bucket brigade" that would throw the water at fires.

Philadelphia obtained a hand-pumped fire engine in 1719, years after Boston's 1654 model appeared there, made by Joseph Jencks, but before New York's two engines arrived from London.

By 1730, Newham, in London, had made successful fire engines; the first used in New York City (in 1731) were of his make (six years before formation of the NYC volunteer fire department). The amount of manpower and skill necessary for firefighting prompted the institution of an organized fire company by Benjamin Franklin in 1727. Thomas Lote built the first fire engine made in America in 1743.

The first fire engine in which steam was used was that of Braithwaite in 1829; Ericsson made a similar one in New York in 1840. John Ericsson is credited with building the first American steam-powered fire engine.

The first self-propelled steam engine was built in New York in 1841. It was the target of sabotage by fire fighters and its use was discontinued.

Early pumpers used cisterns as a source of water. Water was later put into wooden pipes under the streets and a "fire plug" was pulled out of the top of the pipe when a suction hose was to be inserted. Later systems incorporated pressurized fire hydrants, where the pressure was increased when a fire alarm was sounded. This was found to be harmful to the sytem, and unreliable, and today's valved hydrant systems are typically kept under pressure at all times, although additional pressure may be added when needed. Pressurized hydrants eliminate much of the work in obtaining water for pumping through the engine and into the attack hoses. Many rural fire engines still rely upon cisterns or other sources for drafting water into the pumps.

Fire department vehicles all over the world


Missing image
German Fire engine

In Germany, die Feuerwehr is primarily organized on a per-town basis, but there are national norms for firefighting equipment, trucks and tactics. Due to the lesser usage of wood in homebuilding and the missing speedlimit on many german highways, accident rescue is an even more common task than fire fighting.

The most common types of vehicles (which come in different sizes and local variations) are

  • ELW - command vehicle, ranging from sedan to omnibus.
  • TSF, KLF - small fire trucks; about every german village has at least one of those
  • LF - fire engine carrying a crew of 9, traditionally without a water supply, but modern types do carry one.
  • TLF - fire engines with larger water tank but smaller crew
  • RW - standardized rescue trucks for accidents and other technical aid
  • GW - specialised tool carriers for Hazmat, light, SCUBA supply, divers, etc.
  • DL - Ladder, common norm: 23 meters above ground at 12 m from center
  • SW - hose carrier. this tends to be the only vehicle with "american-style" pre-coupled hoses that can be deployed while driving
  • RTW - Ambulance. Not everywhere medical services are carried out by the fire departement, though this is more common in cities with 100.000 inhabitants and more, which are required to maintain a full-time fire fighting force.
Missing image
RW 1, the smallest German Tool carrier

The number of normed vehicle types has recently been reduced to 11, but the local variations probably will always exist. Most common of these variants is to combine hydraulic rescue tools with firefighting equipment in a single vehicle.

Hong Kong

The Hong Kong Fire Services is a force of 8000 plus firefighters serving one of the most densely populated urban areas in the world. They served under the British before 1997 and are equipped much like their counterparts in the United Kingdom. While most cities' high-rise buildings are concentrated to their downtown commercial areas, they are ubiquitous in Hong Kong. Most residential buildings in this very crowded Asian city are more than twenty-stories tall, with some reaching forty or fifty stories. Thanks to strict fire code and the use of non-flammable materials, severe structural fires are rare. The Fire Services department is nonetheless equipped with a significant quantity of hydraulic platforms and possesses some of the tallest ladder platforms in the world. Common fire engines in Hong Kong include:

  • Hydraulic Platforms: Carry out firefighting and rescue at elevated levels
  • Major Pump: Basically Type B Water Tenders that provide water supply
  • Turtable Ladder: Similar to Hydraulic Platforms but they use telescopic ladders instead of hydraulic platforms and are better suited for high level rescue
  • Light Rescue Units: First strike fire appliances, equipped with varieties of rescue equipments
  • Major Rescue Units: Also serve as light rescue units but are capable of special missions when teamed up with the rescue tenders
  • Mobile Command Units: Field command center
  • Rescue Tenders: Perform rescue missions in major disasters
Missing image
Hazmat Tender(HT), the HKFSD
  • Hazmat Tenders: Hazardous materials handling
  • Hazmat Pods: Equipped with radioactivity detectors, protective aprons and decontaminating tools, Hazmat Pods are used in nuclear/biohazardous incidents.
  • Lighting Tenders: Provide lighting
  • Hose Appliance: Carry hoses for water relay
  • Light Pumping Appliance: Perform pumping or rescue operations when area is inaccessible to major appliances
  • Reserve Heavy Pump: Conduct water relay and pumping in remote areas or major fires
  • Snorkel: Rescue operations at high level
Missing image
Missing image
The Jackless Snorkel with Snoozle, the HKFSD
  • Aerial Ladder Platform (ALP): Carry a telescopic ladder and capable of reaching 53m

The following appliances are mainly deployed to the airport and stations close to fuel depots:

  • Foam Tenders
  • Bulk Foam Tender
  • First Intervention Vehicle: Carries foam and water and capable of discharging 6000 litres per minute
  • Jackless Snorkel: Equipped with a piercing nozzle that can pierce through the fuselage of airplanes and discharge foam in cabin. The HKFSD introduced this to prepare for the commencement of the Airbus A380.

See also

External Link

Fire Appliances in Hong Kong (

Template:Commons de:Feuerwehrfahrzeug fr:fourgon d'incendie ja:消防車 nl:Brandweerauto pl:Samochd pożarniczy


Academic Kids Menu

  • Art and Cultures
    • Art (
    • Architecture (
    • Cultures (
    • Music (
    • Musical Instruments (
  • Biographies (
  • Clipart (
  • Geography (
    • Countries of the World (
    • Maps (
    • Flags (
    • Continents (
  • History (
    • Ancient Civilizations (
    • Industrial Revolution (
    • Middle Ages (
    • Prehistory (
    • Renaissance (
    • Timelines (
    • United States (
    • Wars (
    • World History (
  • Human Body (
  • Mathematics (
  • Reference (
  • Science (
    • Animals (
    • Aviation (
    • Dinosaurs (
    • Earth (
    • Inventions (
    • Physical Science (
    • Plants (
    • Scientists (
  • Social Studies (
    • Anthropology (
    • Economics (
    • Government (
    • Religion (
    • Holidays (
  • Space and Astronomy
    • Solar System (
    • Planets (
  • Sports (
  • Timelines (
  • Weather (
  • US States (


  • Home Page (
  • Contact Us (

  • Clip Art (
Personal tools