Engine 4 - City of Chico
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. Engines are also known as pumpers as they are used to pump water onto fires. Their primary purpose is for direct fire suppression, and carry many tools including ladders, pike poles, and ventilating equipment. Engines are normally staffed with at least 3 (Captain, Engineer, Firefighter), preferably 4 (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 - City of Chico, CA
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 an 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.
A modern fire truck used as a mobile command center, in Helsinki, Finland
Support 42 - Butte County, CA.
Paris fire brigade (here shown parading)
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
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.
Thomas Lote built the first fire engine made in America in 1743, although some hand pump units were imported from Europe prior to that time.
John Ericsson is credited with building the first steam powered fire engine.
Benjamin Franklin is often credited with the invention of the fire company, although Rome had professional fire fighters.
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.
Fire department's vehicles all over the world
, the smallest German Tool carrier
In Germany, most vehicles of the Feuerwehr (fire services) aren't as specialized as in the USA. This means that the so-called Löschgruppenfahrzeug carries not only an engine to pump water, an onboard water supply and portable ladders, but also rescue tools for tending car accidents. Thus, German fire engines serve a more all-round purpose than their usually better motorized American counterparts.
Structural fires are usually not as severe due to the use of more non-flammable building materials. Most villages and small towns are served by a volunteer fire brigades, which are historically an intrinsic part of German society. There, mostly smaller fire engines and trucks are in use.
In Germany there are 9 types of standardized fire vehicles:
- Einsatzleitwagen (small:The Chief's Vehicle, large:The command center)
- Löschfahrzeug (Fire engine)
- Löschgruppenfahrzeug (The standard fire engine with onboard water supply; different sizes)
- Trockenlöschfahrzeug (Special fire engine with dry powder)
- Tanklöschfahrzeug/Großtanklöschfahrzeug (Fire engine with large onboard water supply)
- Trockentanklöschfahrzeug (Fire engine with both onboard water supply and dry powder)
- Tragkraftspritzenfahrzeug (smallest fire engine with portable pump)
- Hubrettungsfahrzeug (ladder truck)
- Rüstwagen and Gerätewagen (tool carriers)
- Schlauchwagen (hose carrier)
- Sonderlöschfahrzeug (Special fire enginges)
- Rettungsfahrzeug (Ambulances)
- other vehicles