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A fire apparatus, fire engine, fire truck, or fire appliance
is a vehicle designed to assist in fighting fires by transporting fire fighters to the scene and providing them with access to the fire, along with water or other equipment. In some areas, the terms fire engine and fire truck represent different types of firefighting apparatus.

A modern fire engine is usually a multi-purpose vehicle carrying paid firefighters or volunteers and equipment for a wide range of firefighting and rescue tasks.

Therefore, most fire engines carry equipment such as ladders, pike poles, axes and cutting equipment, halligan bars, fire extinguishers, ventilating equipment, floodlights, hose ramps, self-contained breathing apparatus (SCBA), and general tools. Many fire appliances are based on standard truck or lorry models with heavy duty suspensions, brakes, tires, alternator, transmission and cooling systems; audible and visual warnings such as sirens, horns, and flashing lights; and a two-way radio.

The fire engine may have several methods of pumping water onto the fire
, such as passing water obtained from a fire hydrant through hoses or using a pumping "cannon" also known as a monitor or deck gun; some trucks have an onboard water reservoir. Some fire engines may carry ladders to gain access to fires occurring in high-rise buildings and remove casualties, or hooks used to pull walls away to expose hidden fire or break windows. In some regions, a rescue unit is an EMS truck with tools to carry out technical rescues of people from traffic collisions or structural collapses.

Fire departments covering large metropolitan areas may have specialist appliances for dealing with hazardous material incidents. Some fire departments may utilise fire trains, fireboats or airplanes, depending on the local geography.

The conventional fire apparatus also called a fire appliance, fire tender, fire engine, water ladder, pumper and pump-ladder
may have several methods of pumping water on to the fire. The most common method is to pass water from a pump through hoses to the fire, from an array of valves. It may also have a fixed pumping "cannon" also called a fire monitor, or deck gun, which can direct the water as pointed by the operator. The horizontal and vertical range of the monitor arrangement usually is limited and appropriate only for specific tasks, such as airport fires.

Monitors can also be used as water cannons for crowd control. A fire engine may have an onboard water reservoir allowing firefighters to begin tackling the fire immediately, or it may be completely reliant on external sources, such as fire hydrants, water tenders, natural sources such as rivers, or reservoirs by using draft water suction. A development is the use of an impulse fire-extinguishing system IFEX, in which the water is highly pressurized into a vaporous mist, creating a cooling effect that is more efficient than that of water alone

Some fire engines have been equipped with injectors for mixing foam into the pumped water stream creating a foam solution that is more effective than water alone.
Some modern apparatus have included an air pump alongside foam injection to produce a compressed air foam product that further increases the efficiency of the water stream, cutting down dramatically on extinguishing time and water damage. This is referred to as a CAFS compressed air foam system.

A turntable ladder (TL) is perhaps the best-known form of specialised aerial apparatus, and is used to gain access to fires occurring at height using a large telescopic ladder, where conventional ladders carried on conventional appliances might not reach.

The name is derived from the fact that the large ladder is mounted on a turntable on the back of a truck chassis, allowing it to pivot around a stable base, which in turn allows a much greater ladder length to be achieved. To increase its length, the ladder is telescopic. Modern TLs are either hydraulic or pneumatic in operation.

A ladder can also be mounted behind the cab. This is sometimes called "mid-ship" and the arrangement allows a shorter wheelbase for the truck, and also can be more stable in some conditions. Rear-mount ladders are built on wheelbases as short as 8ft 10in. Examples are 60ft units manufactured by Gimaex.

The key functions of a turntable ladder are:

  • Allowing access or egress of firefighters and casualties at height;
  • Providing a high level water point for firefighting elevated master stream;
  • Providing a working platform from which tasks such as ventilation or overhaul can be executed.

While the traditional characteristic of a fire appliance was a lack of water pumping or storage, many modern TLs have a water pumping function built in (and some have their own onboard supply reservoir), and may have a pre-piped waterway running the length of the ladder, to allow a stream of water to the firefighters at the top. In some cases, there may also be a monitor at the top of the ladder for ease of use. Other appliances may simply have a trackway which will hold a manually run hose reel securely, and prevent it from falling to the ground.

A tiller ladder
, also known as a tractor-drawn aerial or hook-and-ladder truck, is a specialised turntable ladder mounted on a semi-trailer truck. It has two drivers with separate steering wheels for front and rear wheels. This truck is primarily used in the United States, especially in areas with narrow streets that prevent longer rigid-bodied trucks from entering such as San Francisco and Washington, DC.

The hook-and-ladder concept started when taller skyscrapers and more city streets became a problem for fire departments. Larger ladders were needed to get to the upper stories of buildings, and the only way to move them was in this format. The independent steering for the rear wheels improves maneuverability and allows the truck to quickly position itself when fighting fires.

In some areas of the United States, the turntable ladder may be known as a quint or quad, as it is capable of performing multiple tasks pump, water tank, fire hose, aerial device, and ground ladders with each of these functions making up one of its four Quad or five Quint capabilities. The National Fire Protection Association NFPA has certain specification that a turntable ladder has to meet to be officially considered a quint or quad such as fire pump capacity, minimum amounts of equipment, etc.

A hydraulic platform
, also known as articulating booms, Snorkels, platform trucks, Bronto used in Australia or sometimes shortened to just HP, is a specialised aerial work platform designed for firefighting use. They have a number of functions, which follow the same principles as the turntable ladder, providing high level access and elevated water pump positions.

Some hydraulic platforms are articulated, which allows the arm to bend in one or more places, giving it the ability to go "up and over" an obstacle such as a building roof. There are non-articulated platforms, based on standard aerial work platforms, although the most common type is the tower ladder mentioned above. HPs articulated or not may still have a ladder arrangement fitted to the arm, primarily as an emergency measure. In some jurisdictions these can be denoted ladder platforms.

Most HPs are designed to reach a height of around 33 metres 100 feet, although larger models are capable of reaching heights of over 100 metres 328 feet.

Many HPs are fitted with additional equipment in the platform itself, which can include a control panel, lighting equipment, a fixed water outlet or monitor, power outlets or compressed air outlets allowing the fixing of rescue equipment, such as hydraulic rescue tools. Many are also adapted or capable of carrying a stretcher. Some units have video systems and remote control in case of dangerous chemical fires.

A heavy rescue vehicle, sometimes referred to as a Rescue Company, Rescue Squad or Technical Rescue, is a type of specialty firefighting or EMS apparatus. Essentially giant toolboxes on wheels, they are primarily designed for technical rescue situations such as vehicle extrications following traffic collisions, confined space rescues, rope rescues, swiftwater rescues, or building collapses.

In the U.S., NFPA regulations 1006 and 1670 provide guidelines and regulations for the operation of heavy rescue vehicles and also state that all "rescuers" must have medical training to perform any technical rescue operation, including cutting the vehicle itself. In most rescue environments, fire department personnel conduct rescue operations working hand-in-hand with medical personnel, such as EMTs or paramedics.

A rescue pumper or rescue engine
is a purpose-built unit of fire apparatus beyond a typical NFPA Class A rated engine company. The original concept was to marry the capabilities of a heavy rescue squad and that of a class A rated pumper, that is to add 1,000 gpm or greater fire pump and 500 gallons of water. This is a newer concept that first began in the late 1980s and early 1990s.

This first design did not include all the supply hose that is usually carried on a typical engine, but had the tool-carrying capacity of a heavy squad, including extrication equipment and the specialized rescue tools not carried on ladder trucks or engine companies.

The current design is more like a typical fire engine than a true rescue pumper. Today's rescue engine differs from the original unit concept Rescue Pumper, designed by Fire Chief S. E. Politano, which was simply to add more initial firefighting capabilities onboard water and pumping capacity to a heavy rescue squad, not bring heavy rescue squad capabilities to an engine company.

Wildland firefighting requires unique vehicles that can easily negotiate difficult terrain and high-gradient roads, be self-reliant, and have high clearances for wheels and suspension. Wildland fire engines and wildland fire tenders may have lower capacities to carry water, but can be deployed to fight fires in environments where urban fire apparatus would be unable to operate due to the terrain.

In heavily forested areas
, a specialist brush truck may be used. These are usually trucks with off-road capabilities for traversing rough terrain in order to reach the fire. Other vehicle models commonly used in the role of all-terrain fire engines include the Pinzgauer and Unimog.

Wildland or brush trucks are also distinguished from standard engines in that some models offer the ability to pump water while the apparatus is moving. This contrasts with standard engines or pumpers, which use the vehicle's engine to power the pumps, meaning that the vehicle must be stationary while the pump is in operation.

A tanker truck
, which can also be known as a water tender or water bowser, is a specialist fire appliance with the primary purpose of transporting large amounts of water to the fireground to make it available for extinguishing operations. These are especially useful in rural areas where fire hydrants are not readily available and natural water resources are insufficient or difficult to exploit.

Most tankers have an on-board pumping system. This pump is often not of sufficient power to fight fires (as it is designed to be attached to a fire engine), but is more often used to draw water into the tender from hydrants or other water sources. In some areas, the tenders are used to pump water during floods, and may be fitted with a heavier duty pump for this purpose. Many tankers are equipped with fast-drain valves on the sides and back of the truck. This allows firefighters to empty thousands of gallons or several cubic meters of water into a portable water tank in just a few seconds.

Many fire appliances around the world are based on standard truck or lorry models, which are upgraded to the specifications required by the purchasing department. In the United States, a majority of fire trucks are specially designed from the chassis to the cab and body. This has led to the use of the term custom fire truck, as opposed to a commercial chassis and cab.


  The active visual warnings are usually in the form of flashing coloured lights also known as "beacons" or "lightbars".

  These flash to attract the attention of other road users as the fire appliance approaches, or to provide warning to motorists approaching a stopped appliance in a dangerous position on the road. Common colours for fire warning beacons are blue and red. The beacons can be made to flash. The original method was to place a spinning mirror which moves around a light bulb, called a "rotating beacon".
  More modern methods include the use of strobe lights, which are usually brighter, and can be programmed to produce specific patterns such as a left - right pattern when parked on the left hand side of the road, indicating to other road users that they should move out away from the vehicle. LED flashing lights are becoming more widespread, as they are low profile and consume less energy. See also Emergency vehicle equipment.


 In addition to visual warnings, most appliances are also fitted with audible warnings, sometimes known as sirens, which can alert people to the presence of an emergency vehicle before they can be seen. The first audible warnings were mechanical bells, mounted on the front or roof of the truck. Most vehicles are now fitted with electronic sirens, which can produce a range of different sounds. Fire service driving training often includes the use of different sounds depending on traffic conditions and maneuver being performed. For instance, on a clear road, approaching a junction, the "wail" setting may be used, which gives a long up and down variation, with an unbroken tone, whereas, in heavy slow traffic, a "yelp" setting may be preferred, which is like a wail, but faster.


 Engines are normally staffed with at least three people if possible: an officer, a driver who usually operates the pump, and a firefighter. Preferably, an engine will carry a second firefighter, to increase effectiveness in safely attacking a fire. In some countries, such as Finland, an engine carries the unit leader, an engineer, and one or two pairs of firefighters. Since firefighting takes places in a very hot and hostile environment with high risks, fire fighters work as pairs, and at least one more pair of firefighters is needed on scene for the safety and shifting.


In cities of the United States, firefighters are generally deployed into fire companies specializing in certain tasks. Most common are engine companies and ladder, or "truck", companies. In addition, large cities frequently staff rescue companies. By definition, each company is led by an officer a captain or lieutenant who commands several firefighters. Staffing of fire companies varies by jurisdiction and frequently by company type.


 Many departments staff all of their trucks as medical response units, while some use a mixture. Common units that are medical response units include: Pumper, Rescue, Search & Rescue, and Hazardous Materials Units. The advantage of Medical Response units is well worth the training expenses. 911 medical calls that are responded to by a fire truck places less strain on ambulances and certified first responders, enabling them to focus on more critical patients.

   The disadvantage includes training for the firefighters as EMTs and paramedics, which happens to be very expensive. Also, medical equipment must be carried by the fire truck, reducing storage space for some firefighting equipment.In the United Kingdom, firefighters are arranged in fire and rescue services, historically known as brigades, and usually organized at county, city, or combined level.
  These are divided into either commands or areas, in some cases divisions, then stations, which range in size but in almost every instance have at least one pumping appliance. In addition, general purpose engine stations may have specialist vehicles, such as turntable ladders, hydraulic platforms, foam tenders, etc. The number of personnel at a station varies depending on the number of appliances, and whether it is full time, day manned, or retained. Generally, the crew of an average sized pump is around five, but in any case it can be no less than four and no more than six


 Ctesibius of Alexandria is credited with inventing the first fire pump around the 2nd century B.C., and an example of a force-pump possibly used for a fire-engine is mentioned by Heron of Alexandria. The fire pump was reinvented in Europe during the 16th century, reportedly used in Augsburg in 1518 and Nuremberg in 1657. A book of 1655 inventions mentions a steam engine called fire engine pump used to "raise a column of water 40 feet 12 m, but there was no mention of whether it was portable.


 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 system, and unreliable, and today's valved hydrant systems are 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.


 Since the late 19th century, means of reaching tall structures have been devised. At first, manually extendable ladders were used; as these grew in length and weight, they were put onto two large wheels. When carried by fire engines these ladders had the wheels suspended behind the rear of the vehicle, making them a distinctive sight. Before long, the turntable ladder which was even longer, mechanically extendable, and installed directly onto a fire truck made its appearance.


  In 1905, the first modern fire engine was constructed by Knox Automobile of Springfield, Massachusetts, based on the standard truck model. A year later, the City of Springfield had the world's first modern fire department, supplied by Knox Fire Engines,The longest turntable ladders have reached a height of 150 feet (46 m), requiring the aforementioned "tiller trucks" to carry such ladders.


  After the Second World War turntable ladders were supplemented by the aerial work platform sometimes called "cherry picker", a platform or bucket attached onto a mechanically bending arm or "snorkel" installed onto a fire truck. While these could not reach the height of similar turntable ladders, the platforms could extend into previously unreachable "dead corners" of a burning building.








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