Pretty much everyone will have some experience seeing a fire truck in action, even if you’re not a firefighter yourself.
For most of us, they appear to be these excitingly fast monster-sized vehicles, always in a rush to save the day. If you’ve ever had one of them drive past you on a busy road with the sirens blaring, you’ll know just how big and loud they can be.
However, for the people who design and use fire trucks on a regular basis, there are a lot more considerations that have to be in terms of their size.
For example, a fire truck needs to be big enough to transport a whole team of firefighters with all their equipment, but it needs to be small enough to fit on standard roads and navigate between other vehicles.
This creates an interesting design conundrum that has been developed and worked on over many years of firefighting.
Of course, there’s no one right answer to this question because fire truck sizes vary depending on their model and their purpose. As a rough estimate, the average fire truck is around 40 feet long and 10 feet wide.
In this article, we’ll be looking at the different types and sizes of fire trucks that are used in the US and around the world. We’ll also explain what all the differences are between the various types of fire trucks and engines and why they’re important.
What Is A Fire Truck And What Do They Do?
The first thing we need to look at to understand why fire trucks vary so much in size is what actually constitutes a fire truck.
Essentially, it’s a road vehicle that is used by a firefighting team to transport staff and equipment from headquarters to the scene of a fire. Technically, any vehicle could be a fire truck if it’s carrying out that task.
However, as you’ve probably noticed, professional fire trucks have plenty of features you won’t find on any other vehicle that make them a better fit for the job.
Of course, non-road-based firefighting vehicles do not count as fire trucks, even though they carry out a similar purpose. For example, fireboats and helitankers are used by many firefighting departments across the world and are used to navigate terrains that a road vehicle simply can’t.
Fire Truck Or Fire Engine?
Believe it or not, not every road-based firefighting vehicle you see is actually called a fire truck. It’s common for people who aren’t in the industry to get the terms confused, so here’s a quick guide to all the different categorizations:
- Fire trucks - The only role of a fire truck is to transport the firefighters and equipment to the scene of a fire. They pretty much only carry rescue tools such as ladders and breathing apparatus.
- Fire engines - These are the vehicles that actually carry the water used to put a fire out. They’ll have a large tank of water, a high-pressure pump and a few different hoses to allow the firefighters to use more precision when extinguishing a flame.
- Aerial ladder trucks - Perhaps a lesser known category of road firefighting vehicles, an aerial ladder basically replaces the water tank in a normal fire engine. For these vehicles, pumps are used to draw water for nearby fire hydrants or large bodies of water like rivers and lakes. The aerial ladder is then used to help fight fires and rescue people from higher up in buildings.
Types Of Fire Trucks, Fire Engines And Their Sizes
In the US, there’s a pretty rigid system for categorizing fire trucks and engines. Here, we’re going to explain the differences between all the different types of US firefighting vehicles and look at some of the most common ones in other countries.
This is the most common type of firefighting vehicle used across the US today. They’re often referred to as engine pumpers or structural firefighting trucks but the official classification is type 1.
Type 1s are designed for use in urban areas and have to be able to navigate through narrow streets and between rows of parked cars. This means they’re usually the first vehicles to arrive at the scene of a fire and will often support emergency medical service (EMS) response.
These trucks are required to carry a minimum tank size of 300 gallons, though most will carry larger ones. Interestingly, the minimum efficiency of the truck’s pump is also measured and must be able to disperse at least 1000 gallons of water per minute.
Of course, type 1 trucks carry a variety of different firefighting equipment, including hoses of varying thicknesses and lengths, nozzles, ground ladders, first aid equipment, forcible entry equipment and many more.
Because of their maneuverability and versatility, type 1s are usually slightly smaller than the average size estimate we established earlier. You can expect a type 1 fire truck to be around 35 feet long and 9 feet wide, though there are no required dimensions for them.
These trucks share a few of the same characteristics as a type 1, with a few differences in features and functions.
They are more commonly used in urban and suburban areas as first response vehicles or for performing vehicle accident and rescue response.
They feature a smaller water tank than the type 1 but are still able to carry plenty of equipment for any type of firefighting situation.
Type 2s are definitely a lot smaller than the average fire truck and can be around 30 feet long and 8 feet wide.
Differing greatly from the previous two vehicles, a type 3 fire truck is more commonly used in rural areas and is sometimes referred to as a wildland fire truck.
These vehicles must be equipped to carry at least three firefighters/passengers and have a tank size of at least 500 gallons. The required extra tank size is enforced because these trucks are designed to fight forest fires in areas where there often isn’t another water source nearby.
That’s also why the required pump efficiency is much lower, at 150 gallons of water per minute.
Interestingly, some type 3 fire trucks can be fitted with a power-take-off (PTO) pump, which enables the truck to keep moving while still pumping water out through the hose.
In terms of their size, a lot of variation can take place between different departments, mostly dependent on how much rural land there is nearby. On average, they’re around the same dimensions as a type 2 truck: around 30 feet long and 8 feet wide.
There isn’t too much to say about this type of fire truck because they’re very similar to type 3s. The main differences are that a type 4 will have a bigger water tank and fewer hose capacity requirements.
For example, the requirement for a type 4 water tank is at least a 750-gallon capacity. Similarly, their pumps are less powerful, only dispersing water at a rate of 50 gallons per minute.
You’d expect to see these vehicles at most fire departments that have some type 3s in the garage as well. The large tank and weaker pump make them pretty good for dealing with wildfires and fires in areas where there isn’t an additional water source nearby.
In terms of size, expect these fire trucks to be about the same dimensions as a type 2 and 3: around 30 feet long and 8 feet wide.
Types 5,6 and 7
We’ve grouped these three classes of fire trucks together because they don’t differ greatly in design and will often perform similar functions in a fire department.
They are similarly ideal for use in wildlands and rural areas and appear more like large pickup trucks than conventional fire trucks.
Some of them are used as support for emergency medical service (EMS) response needs while others can have small water tanks fitted to them to provide initial fire suppression while waiting for larger vehicles to arrive at the scene of a fire.
The main differences between the three are their gross vehicle weight rating (GVWR). Simply, a type 5 is the heaviest, a type 6 is a little lighter, and a type 7 is the lightest of the three.
Their GVWR is the maximum weight these vehicles are allowed to be and they’re the only three on the list that have a weight requirement.
Because these types of fire trucks can all differ so much in functionality and weight, there’s no way to tell what length and size they all are. However, they are likely to be slightly smaller than any of the previous trucks we’ve discussed.
Scania Fire Engine (UK)
This is the first fire truck we’re looking at from outside the US. Scania is the name of the company that produces all fire engines in Great Britain and they don’t have as many different classifications as in the US.
The most common (and pretty much the only) fire engine in the UK is around 34 feet long and 7.5 feet wide.
Australian ‘Type 1’ Fire Truck
In Australia, the most commonly used type of fire truck is also sometimes called an engine pumper. They don’t have the same categorizations as in the US, but we’ve labeled this as a ‘type 1’ because the two are very similar.
However, in terms of size, the Australian vehicles are a lot shorter, only measuring roughly 25 feet in length and 8 feet in width.
Frequently Asked Questions
Is There A Difference Between A Fire Truck And A Fire Engine?
Yes, the main difference is that fire trucks need to be able to carry a crew of firefighters, as well as all of their firefighting equipment.
However, fire trucks do not need to carry water tanks and can instead use a pump to disperse water from a fire hydrant or nearby large body of water through a hose.
On the other hand, a fire engine does carry a water tank, which can vary in size depending on the classification of the vehicle itself.
Which Is Bigger, A Fire Truck Or A Fire Engine?
As we’ve established, a fire truck is designed to carry firefighters and firefighting equipment only, whereas fire engines have a water tank. This means that fire trucks are often significantly bigger than fire engines, due to the extra aerial and ground equipment needed to be carried.
Of course, this isn’t always the case and there are certain types of fire trucks that are actually smaller than the average fire engine. Check out the list above to learn more about the different types and sizes of fire engines.
How Long Is A Pumper Fire Truck?
A pumper fire truck, sometimes referred to as an engine pumper or a type 1 (in the US), is one of the most common types of fire truck in the world.
Of course, there are different classifications of pumpers, which results in them being constructed with different dimensions. The average pumper can range anywhere from 24 to 35 feet in length.
So now you hopefully know a little bit more about all the different types and varieties of fire trucks and engines across the US and the world.
If you’ve ever wondered why you’re not allowed to park next to a fire hydrant when they always seem to be using water from a tank anyway, now you know!
The fire trucks simply need to use those hydrants to initially tackle the fire before the fire engines and larger vehicles can get to the scene.
It’s interesting to note that in most countries in the world, the dimensions of firefighting vehicles are one of the primary concerns when constructing new roads.
Governments and councils are often forced to adhere to strict guidelines about how wide roads need to be and where roadside parking is allowed to ensure firefighting vehicles can navigate through them quickly and easily.
Next time you have to pull over to let a firefighting vehicle pass, take a second to look at the different features on it and try to guess what type of vehicle you think it is!