Fire Trucks: What are the different types?

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A typical modern fire truck carries equipment for a wide range of firefighting and rescue tasks. Fire apparatus are often adapted to their areas of operation. Compiled is a brief overview of some of the variations available.


A fire truck also known as a fire apparatus, fire engine, or fire appliance, is a specific vehicle designed primarily for firefighting. Many organizations employ fire engines for various other uses including EMS, hazmat, auto extrication and technical rescue. Its main roles include transporting firefighters, along with a supply of water and a full compliment of equipment.

Here is a quick overview of some of the types of appliances in operation today:

Conventional Fire Appliance

The conventional fire apparatus which can also be called a fire appliance, fire tender, fire engine, water ladder, pumper or pump-ladder has several methods of pumping water onto the fire. The most common method is to pass water from a pump through hoses to the fire.

Airport Crash Tender

An airport crash tender is a fire engine designed for use at aerodromes in aircraft accidents. The features include good acceleration, ability to move on rough terrain outside the runway and airport area, large water capacity, a foam tank and a high-capacity pump.

Turntable Ladder

A turntable ladder is perhaps the best-known form of special purpose 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.

Command Support Unit

The advancement of technology and potential for very large-scale incidents has led to many fire departments utilizing or increasing their use of mobile command support units. A fundamental advantage of such an appliance is to accommodate the many different types of communication equipment needed at major incidents.

Tower Ladder

Some turntable ladders may have a basket mounted at the top of the ladder, as on a hydraulic platform and these are called tower ladders. These appliances can provide a secure place for a firefighter to operate equipment from.

Hydraulic Platform

A hydraulic platform, also known as articulating booms, snorkels and platform trucks,is a specialized 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.

Heavy Rescue Vehicle

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.

Hazardous Materials Apparatus

Many fire departments covering large metropolitan areas or those containing many high-risk hazards keep specialist appliances for dealing with hazardous materials (HAZMAT). These are of several types, from those used to clean spilled oil on streets and highways, to full decontamination units, designed to clean victims and rescuers of contaminants after an incident.

Tanker Truck

A tanker truck is a specialist fire appliance with the primary purpose of transporting large amounts of water to an emergency to make it available for extinguishing operations. These are especially useful in rural areas where fire hydrants are not available and natural water resources are insufficient or difficult to exploit.

Foam Tender

Foam tenders carry large amounts of foam to be used at incidents where water is ineffective or cannot be used to tackle a blaze. They may take the form of a tanker, or a truck carrying foam packets or barrels.

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