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Types of Fire Engines and Their Importance

Custom Fire Apparatus built by Boise Mobile Equipment

Fire engines have advanced throughout the last four centuries. The first fire engines were human-propelled water pumps with no room for personnel. Around the end of the 1800s, the threat of fire within densely populated areas brought about paid firefighters equipped with horses to pull the early apparatus.  The modern-day fire engine emerged in the 1960s armed with water pumps, a reservoir, and enclosed seats for the crew. 

 As the fire threats began to change, so did the specialization of the fire engine. 

Fire Engine Types and Classifications

Taking a look at the National Fire Protection Association (NFPA) Standard 1901, Standard for Automotive Fire Apparatus, it classifies the vehicles by type and function. This is important because it created universal fire truck standards and terminology to help fire departments find an apparatus that will fit their needs.

Fire Engine Classification:

Type 1 Fire Engine

A Type 1 fire truck, typically responds to structural fires and is the most common type of fire truck in use today. Densely populated areas depend on a Type 1 fire apparatus to efficiently maneuver to the call and deploy an array of ladders to reach fires in elevated buildings.

A typical custom pumper holds around 400 to 500 gallons of water.  Oftentimes the amount of water needed to extinguish the fire cannot be supplied by the tank alone. Finding a reliable water supply is one of the most fundamental operations when arriving on the fire scene.

In addition, Type 1 pumpers are equipped to carry up to 4 firefighters. Commonly found on these apparatus are SCBA’s, chainsaws, circular saws, and many different types of specialized equipment dependent on the department’s needs.

Type 2 Fire Engine

commerical pumper

A Type 2 fire truck features many of the same specifications and tools as the Type 1 fire truck. They are also the typical truck seen in a suburban area responding to structural fires. 

Commercial pumpers are more compact but still holds the same amount of equipment as Type 1. Typically seen first on the scene to start fire extinguishing tasks until more support arrives.

Type 2 pumpers typically carries 3 or 4 firefighters. Commonly found on these apparatus are SCBA’s, chainsaws, circular saws, and many different types of specialized equipment dependent on the department’s needs.

Wildland Fire Engines

A Type 3, Type 4, and Type 6 are what are considered “wildland engines” or “brush trucks.” These are the vehicles that respond to wildfires and have the ability to drive in rough terrain to respond to a fire or rescue.  

Wildland engines are specially designed for the technique of pump-and-roll.  This is a tactic where the vehicle drives with the pump engaged while a firefighter uses a hose to spray water on the fire.

Type 3 Fire Engine

type 3 wildland fire engine

Type 3 has four-wheel drives to make driving over rough terrain easier and has a maximum gross vehicle weight rating (GVWR) of over 26,000 lbs.  The minimum number of personnel a Type 3 must carry is 3.

Type 3 brush trucks are required to have a minimum of 500 US gallons of water and pump 150 US gallons per minute at a pressure of 250 pounds per square inch. Type 3 and Type 4 often look similar to one another. However, the biggest difference is their minimum personnel and tank capacities.

Type 4 Fire Engine

type 4 fish and wildlfie

Type 4 Wildland engine is similar to a Type 3 but with very important differences. Type 4 are used to drive over rough terrain and weighs 26,000 lbs, but it sacrifices a smaller pump and less hose for a larger 750-gallon tank. The Type 4 standard of pumping is 50 US gallons per minute at a pressure of 100 pounds per square inch. The minimum number of personnel a Type 4 must carry is 2.

Type 5, Type 6, and Type 7 Fire Engine

type 6 engine

Type 5, 6, & 7 are usually built specifically for the department’s needs. These vehicles are typically pick-up truck-based with 4-wheel drive.

These engines are often seen in both wildland and suburban settings. These fire engines have a much smaller configuration than a typical Type 3 or 4 engine.  

The smaller body still allows the department to carry 50 to 400 gallons of water with the maneuverability and accessibility that you don’t have in Type 3 or 4.  

Types 5 through 7 are used heavily for the initial fire suppression response, and their GVWR’s are rated in ascending order from 26,000 lbs in Type 5 engines to 14,000 on Type 7. This engine classification is designed to hold a minimum of 2 people and carry hose diameters ranging from 1 inch to 1 ½ inch.

Conclusion

As a general rule of thumb, fire engine types are specified from largest to smallest size, Types 1-2 being the largest to carry large pumps and ladders for structure fires, and Types 5-7 being the smallest for navigating rough wildland terrain. Type 3 and 4 engines are mid-sized engines built both for wildland mobility and large water capacity. The general difference between these two is that Type 4 engines have much larger water tanks than Type 3 engines.

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