Learn all about fire trucks, who invented them, all the different types and so much more that you can share with your toddler

All About Fire Trucks

Learn all about fire trucks, who invented them, all the different types and so much more that you can share with your toddler

Kids love fire trucks, whether it is a toy car or the actual vehicle driving by. While adults largely take fire trucks for granted, they have a fascinating history.

The complex machines are well designed to handle a variety of emergency situations and protect local communities.

Keep reading to learn all about fire trucks and why fire truck toys are great for children.

When Were Fire Trucks Invented?

For centuries, humans found ways to squirt water on fire. While fire was a necessity for life, it was also extremely dangerous if it got out of control or sparked unexpectedly.

Fire pumps date all the way back to the 2nd century B.C., but they were largely ineffective and had to be operated by hand.

In colonial America, each home was legally required to keep a bucket full of water on their front stoop.

If a fire broke out in the area, the bucket brigade would use the buckets of water to fight the fire. This human chain method is still used in some circumstances today, if machines cannot get close enough to a fire.

The need for portable firefighting capabilities was clear, and “fire engines” appeared on the scene in the mid-1600s.

However, they were far from the modern fire engines we know today. Fire engines of long ago still relied on a hand pump or hand tub to propel the water.

They were also carried by several men until they became too heavy. That is when they started being transported by horse and carriage.

For a while, fire engines were built in London. But in 1743, the first fire engine was built in America by Thomas Lote.

Self-propelled steam pumper engines were not created until the mid-1800s, and motorized fire trucks were introduced in the 1900s.

As buildings became taller throughout the 20th century, ladders were installed on trucks and mechanical arms were added to reach difficult spots.

The fire trucks we know today evolved from the 1960s. In recent decades, fire trucks have been specialized to perform specific tasks as needed.

Pumpers are the most common type of fire truck and are outfitted with a water tank, hose, and pump.

Turntable ladders are used to reach tall buildings or corners.

A variety of specialized trucks also exist for other specific tasks.

Who Makes Fire Trucks?

In the United States, Oshkosh Defense and Spartan Motors are the top fire truck manufacturers.

Globally, the Rosenbauer Group is one of the largest fire-service vehicle manufacturers. They provide firefighting equipment to more than 100 countries.

The fire department in the city of New York, perhaps one of the most recognizable fire departments in the world, relies on Ferrara Fire Apparatus for their heavy duty fire equipment.

The contract with FDNY supplies aerial ladders for the city’s trucks.

How Long Are Fire Trucks?

The exact length of fire trucks differs by the type of truck, specialty, and manufacturer.

The Fire Apparatus Manufacturers’ Association has released guidelines for the size and weight of emergency vehicles, but manufacturers have some leeway within those requirements.

Large tanker trucks are often more than 8 feet wide and 11 feet tall. They can be as long as 35 feet and weigh more than 50,000 pounds.

Fire trucks have to be operated by drivers that are highly trained in order to operate safely on the roads.

It is crucial for drivers to be well-trained so they arrive on the scene as quickly as possible.

How Do Fire Trucks Work?

Fire trucks are extremely complex pieces of machinery.

Emergency personnel rely on fire engines to arrive at the scene of a fire or accident quickly and supply all of the equipment they need to handle any emergency situation.

A fire truck combines a personnel carrier, which transports firefighters to the scene, along with a tool box and water tanker.

There are many types of fire trucks designed to fulfill specific needs.

The most common fire truck is a pumper or tanker fire engine. This truck is designed to bring large volumes of water to the scene.

They have a water tank and some are able to suck water from on outside water source, including a fire hydrant or lake.

The water tank can hold 1,000 gallons of water, and a hard suction line is used to bring the water out of the tank.

The impeller water pump propels water out, creating high water pressure. The water moves through a hose, which can be directed at the fire.

There are countless systems at work inside a fire engine, including a foam system, an electronic control panel, a valve system, and more.

Fire fighters are trained to prime the pump, which removes all the air, before using the hose. A fire truck can spray up to 1,000 gallons of water in a single minute.

Curb jumpers and hose packs are stored in the truck and can be carried up a ladder or through a window.

Why Are Fire Trucks Red?

There are several theories on why fire trucks are red, and no one is really sure of the right answer.

You may be surprised to learn that fire trucks are made in a variety of colors, but red is still the most popular.

If you hear a fire truck, you are most likely to look for a big red vehicle with lights and sirens.

One theory on why fire trucks are red is that red used to be the least expensive paint.

Before organized fire departments existed in almost every city like they do today, most fire fighters were volunteers.

Fire departments and unpaid volunteers did not have a lot of extra money to spend, and it was cheapest to paint the engine red.

Some bucket brigades or local volunteer fire departments were also very proud of their efforts.

As volunteers competed against other towns, they painted their trucks red to show their pride and stand out.

Others theorize that red was used to make a fire truck stand out from other vehicles.

Why Are Some Fire Trucks Yellow?

While most of us are used to red fire trucks, yellow is actually considered a better color.

Yellow and lime green have been found to stand out the most, and they are easier colors to see in the dark. It is easy to spot fluorescent colors in the daytime as well.

However, some studies have found that the type of vehicle is more important than the color.

Yellow or green may be easier to see, but people do not associate those colors with fire trucks.

Why Are Some Fire Trucks White?

Like yellow or lime green, studies have found that brighter colors like white may be more visible.

In some cities, fire departments paint their trucks white to avoid accidents and collisions at night.

Why Are Airport Fire Trucks Different?

Aircraft firefighting trucks are much different than municipal fire trucks in many ways, including shape and color.

Airport fire trucks have to carry a lot more water than city trucks because it can be difficult or impossible to access an outside source of water.

Airport fire trucks also have to be able to accelerate faster and achieve higher top speeds than municipal fire trucks.

There is a greater capacity in the cab of an airport fire truck as well, which can bring more personnel to the scene.

Why Do Fire Trucks Accompany Ambulances?

You may wonder why fire trucks accompany ambulances to accidents or emergencies that do not involve a fire.

Ambulances are often staffed with a crew of just two people, and that is usually not enough to handle an accident or situation.

A fire engine can bring more personnel to the scene, helping care for sick or injured people.

Fire trucks can also help block the scene of an accident or emergency, keeping the emergency personnel safe from passing vehicles as they work.

Fire trucks can also help clear a path for an ambulance to drive, providing an easier route to the hospital.

Why Are Dalmatians Associated With Fire Trucks?

Back when fire engines were new and often pulled by horses, dalmatians were used to clear a path.

Horses and dalmatians tend to get along very well, and the dogs were easy to train.

They could run ahead of the horses and fire engine to provide a clear path for the fire fighters as well as help protect the horses and equipment.

The spotted dog was also easy to recognize and drew attention from crowds.

Why Do Dogs Howl At Fire Trucks?

Dogs are descended from wolves, and they howl at fire trucks and sirens because of this ancestry.

When a wolf pack was separated, members would howl in order to find each other. Dogs use a similar howling method to communicate their location.

Dogs may mistake a siren for another animal that is howling and feel compelled to howl back.

Some believe a dog howls because the noise is uncomfortable for their ears, but that is not likely to be the case.

It may be possible that dogs howl because a siren is a new or unusual addition to their normal environment.

Why Do Toddlers Love Fire Trucks?

Fire trucks are impressive vehicles.

With their large shape, bright colors, flashing lights, and whirling sirens, they draw attention wherever they go.

Vehicles in general are fascinating to small children, and fire trucks take that interest to the next level.

When a fire leaves the fire house or arrives on scene, there is an immediate flurry of activity.

Toddlers are drawn to the flurry of movement, the firefighters in unique outfits, and the imposing presence of the trucks themselves.

From the massive spurt of water to the tall ladder climbing up buildings, there is a lot to see when it comes to fire trucks.

Is Playing With Fire Truck Toys Good For Toddlers?

Fire trucks are cool, and toddlers are fascinated by the impressive vehicles and the men and women who work on them.

Firefighters are considered heroes, and for good reasons.

Playing with fire truck toys can help toddlers appreciate the hard work firefighters do to keep their communities safe.

Playing with fire truck toys offers a way for toddlers to stretch their imagination and pretend to be heroes themselves.

Many firefighters first became interested in emergency services by playing with their own fire truck toys when they were kids.

Even if toddlers do not grow up to become firefighters, they can still learn valuable communication skills, problem solving skills, and compassion by playing with toy fire trucks.


Fire trucks have a long history and they have evolved over the decades to become much more modernized and advanced.

They play a huge role in our society and it’s no wonder that kids of all ages are totally fascinated with them and are keen to learn more!

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