How Much Do You Know About Fire Trucks?


By: Ian Fortey

6 Min Quiz

Image: Steve Kelley aka mudpig / Moment/ Getty IMages

About This Quiz

Firefighting is not a task a person can do without help.  Fire is unpredictable, dangerous and impatient.  It needs to be dealt with as quickly and efficiently as possible.  That's why humans have been coming up with new and better ways to manage fires for literally thousands of years.  Fire isn't going away any time soon, so we need to figure out how to deal with it.  And of all the innovations we've managed to devise to handle this force of nature, none has been nearly as impressive as the fire truck.  

Fire trucks and fire engines are the most powerful tools in our arsenal to not just quell a fire when it arises, but minimize the spread of damage and, most importantly, save lives.  Trying to stop someone's property from burning is all well and good, but saving people from the devastation is key.  So we've come up with all kinds of variations on the fire truck, all kinds of ways to use them and make the job of firefighting more efficient and effective. 

Fire trucks have been around for a long time now in one form or another, so there's a lot to know.  Think you have a good grasp on the world of the fire truck?  Put on the siren and let's take the quiz!

Fire has existed longer than humans have. When did we first invent the idea of a fire truck?

Trucks are a relatively new invention, but building something to help fighting fires is not. In Ancient Greece, they didn't have the truck but they had the idea for a pump. A large pump that could be directed at a fire to shoot a blast of water existed way back then, though it never caught on that well.


How many gallons of water can some of the largest modern tanker-pumper trucks hold?

A truck like the All-Poly Series T-Style Tanker-Pumper can hold up to 4,000 gallons of water. Most trucks don't carry quite so much and will usually hold around 1,000 gallons.


The water being hauled by a truck is in what they call the booster tank. What can a booster tank be made out of?

Booster tanks are incredibly heavy thanks to the 1,000+ gallons of water inside. As such, the tank itself should be lightweight. Aluminum is a good material for a tank, while brass, titanium and steel are not.


What was the point of a firehouse having dalmatians?

Dalmatians got along well with horses so they could handle the task of running ahead of the animals without being scared in the days before trucks existed. The dogs would bark to let bystanders know to get out of the way.


What was the most efficient way people had come up with to fight fires before the invention of trucks?

Before the extremely helpful fire truck existed, the bucket brigade was the next best idea. Essentially you create a chain of people between a fire and a water source, constantly passing full buckets of water forward to be tossed on the blaze and empty buckets back to be refilled.


It seems like a silly question, but if a bucket brigade required dozens or hundreds of buckets to fight a fire, where did all the buckets come from?

The bucket brigade needed buckets to work. During colonial times, you would have a bucket sitting in the corner somewhere on your porch or out front of the house to make it easy to grab and assist in the firefighting effort.


We have fire hydrants in towns and cities to help fight fires, but what if the fire breaks out where no hydrant is available? What type of truck would be most helpful?

With no readily available source of water like from a hydrant, firefighters need a tanker on the scene. Also called a tender truck, these are the big ones that carry all the water.


In what year did the first fire engine that didn't need to be pulled by a horse appear?

Horses finally caught a break in the year 1841. It was that year that the first steam engines were rolled out, making it much easier and faster to respond to an emergency situation.


What incredible innovation followed the steam engine by making fire engines even more helpful in the year 1868?

Daniel D. Hayes invented what is also called the Hayes Truck, but most of us know as the ladder truck with the extendable ladder. His invention was able to help rescue people who were too high in a building to be reached by traditional ladders, which saved lives.


What's the difference between a fire truck and a fire engine?

A fire truck is a vehicle that has ladders on board. An engine is a vehicle that brings the equipment like hoses and pumps to the scene of a fire. Both can be necessary at a fire.


What is the purpose of a Quint Truck?

The Quint Truck serves as both ladder truck and engine. The name "quint' refers to the five functions it can provide - ground ladders, aerial device, water tank, pumps, and hoses.


Why does an engine have the ability to blast not just a stream of water but mist as well?

When an engine blasts a fine mist at a fire it serves two potential purposes. The first is to absorb the heat of the blaze and the second is to expand as it heats and displace oxygen, ideally depriving the fire of more fuel.


What kind of equipment could you find on some heavy rescue trucks you won't find on other fire trucks?

Heavy rescue trucks are often used for specialized situations and they tend to carry large emergency equipment, such as cranes, saws and winches. Depending on the situation, the capabilities of a heavy rescue truck can vary greatly.


What innovation was added to the aerial ladder on a truck just after World War Two?

The cherry picker bucket was added to the top of some aerial ladders to make it easier to facilitate saving people trapped on higher floors in awkward positions such as around corners and keeping them and the firefighter more secure at that height. The bucket meant citizens who may be injured or in shock wouldn't have to hold on and risk falls as readily.


What is unique about a "pump and roll" truck?

Pump and Roll trucks are able to fire jets of water while the truck is in motion. These are particularly useful for fighting woodland fires when the truck is approaching a large area that may be engulfed in flames.


What's an advantage to a truck using foam to fight a fire?

There are some considerable advantages to using foam when fighting a fire. Since foam expands, it can be condensed into a smaller space and will end up weighing less than water. It also uses much less water and therefore can be less destructive overall.


In what city did the first fire engine company go into service back in 1678?

Firefighting had, of course, existed before 1678, even in Boston. 1678 was the year that Boston started a real paid fire department. They had a fire chief and were full-time employees of the city.


What kind of truck requires a driver in the front as well as the back?

A hook and ladder truck is a pretty ungainly piece of machinery that resembles a massive 18-wheeler. A driver needs to steer in the front like a normal truck but another driver, called the tillerman, needs to drive the rear to help the massive thing navigate around without crashing into things.


What happened to the first steam-powered engine from back in 1841?

Though we can consider the first steam engine an innovation looking back on it now, it wasn't the case in 1841. Firefighters in New York really disliked the machine and went out of their way to destroy it because they thought it was dangerous and unreliable.


Ladder trucks have to deal with some harsh situations. How much wind can a ladder truck handle?

A ladder truck can do its job in some very high winds, up to 50 miles per hour. Beyond that, it is unsafe and would put the truck, the firefighters and whoever they are attempting to rescue at too great a risk.


What was a serious danger for firefighters on the earliest motorized engines?

The earliest fire engines didn't actually include a lot of seating, so many firefighters had to literally hang on to the outside to travel to the fire. On sharp turns, it wasn't unheard of for a firefighter to be thrown from the truck. Some even died this way.


What kind of truck would you use if you needed to rescue someone who was trapped 300 feet up in a building?

The Bronto or Brontosaurus Skylift is like a ladder truck only so much bigger. The hydraulic ladder can reach heights of up to about 300 feet, making rescues in skyscrapers possible.


What's the name of the truck they use at the Atlanta airport for fighting fires?

The Colet K-15 Jaguar Crash truck looks like it came out of a sci-fi movie. Because an airport fire could potentially be explosively disastrous in a very short amount of time, airport fire trucks need to be incredibly fast. The Colet K-15 Jaguar can crack 80 miles per hour.


What equipment must all trucks be carrying on them?

All trucks must have first aid equipment on board. As well, an AED, or automatic external defibrillator, is also necessary equipment to have available. This ensures that there is always the minimum equipment available for potential rescues.


Before the hydrant system was set up but after the bucket brigade was in use, what was one method firefighters had to use to get water?

Pressurized hydrant systems have been incredible innovations, but before them, there were wooden pipes. Firefighters could access the pipe through a plug and the water, which wasn't pressurized, would have to be pumped out for use.


How much water, at a minimum, does a pumper need to be able to pump?

In order to meet established standards, a pumper needs to be able to pump at 750 gallons per minute. That means a typical tank with 1,000 gallons of water in it will be empty in under a minute and a half.


How many feet of 2.5" or larger hose does a pumper truck carry, at a minimum?

A pumper truck has to have at least 800 feet of 2.5" hose on board, or less of a larger-sized hose. It will also have at least 400 feet of some smaller hoses sizes as well ranging from 1.5" to 2".


How did Russian tank trucks fight fires?

Russia actually built some firefighting tanks, as in machines on treads with cannons. The tanks were equipped with rocket launchers that could fire flame-retarding projectiles into a fire. It was a very destructive way to stop a fire.


What two metals are the pumps on fire engines made from?

All pumps on an engine must be made from stainless steel and bronze. The shaft will be made from steel and the impeller is made from bronze.


What was rigged up to fight oil fires in Kuwait in the 1990s when a normal fire engine could not have done the job?

Oil fires are incredibly difficult to put out. The solution to the Kuwaiti oil fires was using the engine from a Mig-21 fighter jet attached to a Russian tank to blast the fire. Water hoses were also used and the jet engine turned the water to steam and hit the fire with such force it separated it from the oil that fueled it, snuffing the fire.


What's the difference between a pumper and an attack pumper?

An attack pumper is a smaller, faster vehicle than a normal pump truck. The purpose of the attack pumper is to get in somewhere quicker than you could with a big truck, and potentially rescue people as well from an area inaccessible to larger trucks.


What company made the word's first aerial truck?

Seagrave is the oldest manufacturer of fire apparatus in the US. The company was founded in 1881 in Detroit, Michigan. Since that time, the company has moved to Wisconsin and also has a manufacturing facility located in Canada.


The left side of your truck has a name. What is it?

The left side of your apparatus is the street side. The right side is the officer side. The reason for this is that's just what side of the vehicle things are on.


A new fire truck needs to be washed frequently with what during its first 6 months of operation?

For the first six months that a new fire engine or fire truck is in service, cold water should be used frequently during washes. This actually helps the paint harden and will prevent spotting.


What kind of brakes do most fire trucks have?

The majority of brakes in fire apparatus are air brakes. Larger vehicles often are equipped with air brakes that operate by compressed air forcing a piston to apply pressure to the brake pad and stop the vehicle.


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