Fire truck

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Not to be confused with Fire engine.
Ladder 15 of the Boston Fire Department.

A fire truck is a specially designed apparatus for firefighting operations. It is NOT the same as a fire engine (see Fire Engine vs Fire Truck).[1] The primary purpose of a fire truck, along with transporting firefighters to the scene, is to provide ladders and tools needed by the firefighters. Trucks carry a large assortment of ground ladders that together total over 100 feet (30 m), though this number varies greatly by country and jurisdiction.[2] Trucks will also carry a variety of hydraulic rescue tools, halligan bars, floodlights, fire extinguishers, rope and other rescue tools. Notably trucks do not carry fire hose as fire attack is a job usually done members of an engine company (see roles below). The exact layout of what is carried on an engine is decided by the needs of the department.


Members of the truck, commonly referred to as a truck company, are often tasked with ventilation.[3] This task involves the expulsion of heat and smoke from a fire building, permitting the firefighters to find trapped individuals and attack the fire.[4] Ventilation is often performed by cutting holes in the roof. Thus it is the job of the truck company to make access to the roof, via either ground or aerial ladders, and cut ventilation holes.[4]

It is important to note that this notion of 'truck roles' and 'engine roles' while common, is not universal. It is much more likely to be found in larger departments where there is an abundance of personnel and apparatus at the scene.[3] Smaller, usually suburban departments do not have predetermined assignments for trucks vs engines.[3] In a large city, such as Los Angeles it makes sense to have predetermined roles as trucks and engines will likely arrive within moments of each other.[5] Smaller departments such as Santa Barbara have only one truck for the entire department. Thus an engine company will likely be tasked with ventilation long before the truck ever arrives on scene.

The tools carried on the fire engine will vary grately based on many factors including the size of the department, and what sort of terrain the department must handle. For example, departments located near large bodies of water or rivers are likely to have some sort of water rescue equipment. Standard tools found on nearly all fire trucks include a large assortment of ladders, pike poles, axes, hydraulic rescue tools, halligan bars, floodlights, rope, fire extinguishers, a large supply of surplus self-contained breathing apparatus, thermal imaging cameras and other miscellaneous hand tools.[6]

Fire Engine vs Fire Truck[edit]

There are two main types of fire apparatus, the fire engine and the fire truck, each of these have their own subcategories and different types but they represent the two most common apparatus. The two terms, while often used interchangeably, in fact refer to two very different types of equipment.[7] In short, a fire engine, also known as a pumper, carries hose and is fitted with both a pump and an onboard water tank.[8] Fire trucks on the other hand do not carry hose or have an onboard water tank, but are instead fitted with an aerial ladder and/or platform.[8] The one exception to this is the quint which has both an aerial ladder and an on-board water supply.[9]

Types [edit]

Several aerial apparatus in use at a fire in Los Angeles

The term fire truck, also ladder truck, tower ladder or aerial truck, describes any fire fighting apparatus that is fitted with an aerial ladder or platform.[8] This ladder or platform is mounted on a turntable platform and has the ability to telescope up to 150 feet (46 m) and gain access to roofs and tall buildings where conventional ladders carried on conventional appliances might not reach.[10]

A notable feature of all trucks, along with their ladder or platform, are the stabilizers that extend out from either side of the apparatus to ensure the vehicle does not tip over due to the immense amount of leverage being generated by the ended aerial which essentially acts as a lever.[11] These stabilizers, also known as outriggers, widden the footprint of the truck to increase stability and are capable of lifting the entire truck off of the ground. [11]

Another notable aspect of a truck is that it carries multiple ground ladders. In the the United States, National Fire Protection Association regulation 1901 outlines the specifications for a truck. It states that as a minimum a truck must carry one folding ladder, two straight ladders fitted with roof hooks and two extension ladders.[2] Additionally it states that a minimum of 115 feet (35 m) of ground ladders must be carried on the truck.[2] Other equipment required on a truck include multiple fire extinguishers, various axes, SCBA's for all personnel with spares, traffic cones, various types of rope and hand tools.[2]

Tiller Truck[edit]

Tiller-quint of the Los Angeles Fire Department manufactured by American LaFrance

A tiller truck, also known as a tractor-drawn aerial, tiller ladder, or hook-and-ladder truck, is a specialized turntable ladder mounted on a semi-trailer truck. Unlike a commercial semi, the trailer and tractor are permanently affixed and cannot be separated without special tools. It has two drivers, with separate steering wheels for front and rear wheels.[12]

One of the main features of the tiller-truck is its enhanced maneuverability.[13] The independent steering of the front and back wheels allow the tiller to make much sharper turns which is particularly helpful on narrow streets and apartment complexes with mazelike roads.[12] An additional feature of the tiller-truck is that its overhaul length, over 50 feet (15 m) for most models, allows for additional storage of tools and equipment.[13] The extreme length gives compartment capacities that range between 500 and 650 cubic feet (14 and 18 m3) on the trailer with an additional 40 and 60 cubic feet (1.1 and 1.7 m3) on the cab.[13]

Some departments, elect to use tiller-quints (see quint below) which are tiller trucks that have the added feature of being fitted with an on-board water tank.[13] These are particularly useful for smaller departments that do not have enough personnel to staff both an engine company and a truck company.[13]

Platform Truck[edit]

Telescopic hydraulic platform in Roskilde, Denmark

Some aerials have a platform, also known as a basket or bucket, mounted at the top of the ladder, these are commonly known as platform trucks. These platforms can provide a secure place from which a firefighter can operate. Many platforms also allow for rescues to be performed and are outfitted with tie down clips and rappelling arms.[14] One of the features that give platforms an edge of traditional aerials is their ability to fitted with multiple master streams, while a standard aerial ladder can only support a single fire monitor.[15]

There are also platform trucks that do not have a ladder attached to the platform. These specialized elevated work platforms are capable of articulating which allows the arm to bend in one or more places. This is an advantage over the traditional platform ladder which can only extend in a straight line and gives the articulating platform the ability to go "up and over" an obstacle.[citation needed]


Quint 13 belonging to Fort Lauderdale.

A quint, is essentially a hybrid of a fire engine and a fire truck. The name is derived from the Latin prefix quinque-, meaning five, and refers to the five functions that a quint provides: an onboard pump, a water tank, fire hose, aerial ladder and multiple ground ladders (more than just the standard ladders caried on a traditional engine).[16] In the United States, National Fire Protection Association regulation 1901 outlines the specifications for a quint which include an aerial ladder or elevating platform with a permanently installed waterway and an onboard water tank with a minimum capacity of 300 US gallons (1,100 l).[17]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ "Truck vs. Engine". Fairmount Fire. Retrieved 17 March 2015. 
  2. ^ a b c d "8 - Aerial Fire Apparatus", Standard for Automated Fire Apparatus (NFPA 1901) (2009 ed.), National Fire Protection Association, pp. 26–28 
  3. ^ a b c Gray, Sean (23 October 2014). "Controlling The Openings: Is This The Future Of Ventilation?". Fire Engineering Magazine 167 (10). Retrieved 18 March 2015. 
  4. ^ a b Avillo, Anthony (19 August 2014). "The Fire Attack Ventilation Connection: Street Considerations". Fire Engineering Magazine 167 (8). Retrieved 18 March 2015. 
  5. ^ "LAFD Apparatus". Los Angeles Fire Department. Retrieved 19 March 2015. 
  6. ^ "What is a Fire Engine?". WiseGeek. Retrieved 17 March 2015. 
  7. ^ "What is the difference between a fire engine and a fire truck?". Beverly Hills Fire Association. Retrieved 12 March 2015. 
  8. ^ a b c "Know the Difference Between Fire Trucks and Fire Engines?". City of Portland. Retrieved 12 March 2015. 
  9. ^ Avsec, Robert (9 May 2012). "The Quint: A Unique And Still Misunderstood Fire Truck". Fire Rescue 1. Retrieved 12 March 2015. 
  10. ^ "Fire Engine", Encyclopedia Britannica Online, 2015, retrieved 16 March 2015 
  11. ^ a b Petrillo, Alan (1 March 2013). "Aerial Jacking Systems Evolve". Fire Apparatus & Emergency Equipment. Retrieved 16 March 2015. 
  12. ^ a b Avsec, Robert (23 April 2013). "Pros and cons of tractor-drawn aerials". Fire Recruit. Retrieved 16 March 2015. 
  13. ^ a b c d e Hines, Charlie. "Fire Apparatus Utilized on Emergency Responses - Benefits of a Tiller". City of San Luis Obispo. Fire Chief. Retrieved 16 March 2015. 
  14. ^ "Platform Features". Ferrara Fire. Retrieved 17 March 2015. 
  15. ^ "100' Aluminum Platform". Pierce Mfg. Retrieved 17 March 2015. 
  16. ^ "Glossary". Fire Service Info. Retrieved 5 January 2014. 
  17. ^ "9 - Quint Fire Apparatus", Standard for Automated Fire Apparatus (NFPA 1901) (2009 ed.), National Fire Protection Association, pp. 28–29 

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