The Anatomy of a Fire Truck [Infographic]

The National Fire Protection Association estimates that fire departments respond to an average of 366,600 home structure fires a year. These fires account for a yearly average of $7.2 billion in direct property damage. However, these numbers would be much higher without the hard work and true bravery of an estimated 1,129,250 firefighters in the U.S. (as of 2012) and the tools they use, like the modern fire engine.

A Brief History of Fire Trucks

1700s – Fire engines are simply water pumps on wheels designed to accompany the bucket brigades. Mid-1800s – The introduction of paid fire brigades allows for the use of horse-drawn fire pumps. This makes transportation of pumps easier, but firefighters still have to run to fires. 1841 – The first self-propelled, steam-powered fire engine is built in New York, though this isn’t immediately popular as firefighters consider steam propulsion dangerous and unreliable. 1905 – Knox Automobile in Springfield, Massachusetts, creates the first modern fire engine, which is mounted on a truck body. 1930s – Ladders become a standard addition to fire trucks, allowing firemen to reach distances up to 150 feet. 1940s – Fire trucks are fitted with cherry pickers, which consist of a large, human-sized bucket attached to a bending arm. 1960s – The modern day fire truck is introduced, featuring water pumps, ladders, cherry pickers, and enclosed seats. ---

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The Components of a Fire Truck

  • Gripped Steps – The truck is surrounded with gripped steps, allowing firefighters to safely move throughout and around the vehicle.
  • Tool Compartments – These hold a variety of tools commonly used in firefighting situations, including:
    • Axes
    • Halligan bars
    • Fire extinguishers
    • Ventilator fans
    • Nozzles
    • Cutters
  • Aerial ladder – The ladder is raised and lowered using a hydraulic piston rod
    • Can reach up to 105 feet
    • Equipped with a master stream hose (capable of releasing 1,000 gallons per minute)
    • Generally used for commercial fires
  • Flood lights
  • Hoses
    • Deck gun – Mounted atop the fire truck, the deck gun sprays up to 1,000 gallons of water per minute.
  • Also called the deluge gun or master stream
  • Designed to place a lot of water on large fires
    • Preconnects – These are lines that are preconnected to the truck to save time when firefighters arrive on the scene.
  • Located on driver’s side, captain’s side, and rear
    • Bumper Line – The truck’s front bumper houses a small hose that can be used for garbage and car fires.
    • Blitz line – Found in the back of the truck, the blitz line is used outside a building and requires two to three operators.
    • Skid load – The skid load is smaller and can be used inside a building.
  • Pump panel
    • The pump panel controls the pressure and flow of all of the hoses on the fire engine
    • Operating the panel efficiently requires years of practice.
    • If the firefighters are spraying one of the preconnects at 360 gallons a minute, they have less than 2 minutes to switch from the fire truck’s 500 gallon tank to a hydrant flow source without interrupting the stream.


Driver’s Cab

  • Flashlights
  • Radio systems
  • Thermal imaging cameras
  • Reference books
  • Gas monitors
  • Mounted laptop connected to Internet and dispatch
  • Four air tanks
    • Each air tank has 40 minutes of air.
    • The tanks are placed directly on the seats so that they can be strapped on while the firefighters are seated.

Rear Passenger Compartment

  • Thermal imaging cameras
  • Road cones
  • Rope drop bags
  • Radios
  • Wildland web gear



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