Fire Department Vehicles Used in Fire Suppression

Command Vehicle
Every fire or rescue operation has a command post and a commanding officer — usually a batallion chief or a fire chief. The “command vehicle” is usually outfitted with a desk, plan board and radios to coordinate firefighters, police assistance, mutual aid, triage, relocation for victims, utility services and other necessities. The fire or rescue scene also has a RIT (Rapid Intervention Team) chief and a safety officer.

Fire Engine or “Engine”
A fire engine’s major purpose is bringing water to put out the fire. Water is brought to fires on handlines carried by firefighters or a turret gun at the top of the fire engine. Fire engines also pump water to other fire engines in relay or to ladder trucks or towers to get water to those vehicles, which are often position a considerable distance from fire hydrants. Fire engines carry small water tanks that last for short periods. Fire engine crews are usually the main crews that carry handlines to the fire and put water on the fire. One engine crew is usually assigned as a RIT crew — rapid intervention team that is used to firefighters that become periled or they serve as a fresh team that can respond quickly to any unexpected emergency at the fire scene.

Ladder Truck
A fire truck with a ladder that is used to fight the fire with water from heights and is used to rescue victims from upper floor windows and balconies. It is also used for easier and safer access to the roof of a burning building. The ladder truck crews are often assigned tasks with pike poles where they pull down ceilings or they often use power saws to cut holes in the roof to ventilate the burning building. They also often perform the same tasks as fire engine crews knocking down the fire with water from handlines. Ladder Trucks and Towers are often used for rescues in serious car accidents on expressways when their high visibility and size help provide a safety zone for working crews. Many carry extrication equipment, as well.

A fire apparatus vehicle that provides five functions as a fire engine, which (1) pumps water, (2) stores limited water, (3) stores fire hoses; and a ladder truck with (4) an aerial tower or ladder with permanently installed waterway, and (5) ground ladders.

Tanker or Water Tender
A fire truck with a large tank of water that is used in areas where no fire hydrants are available. The units are also capable of drafting water from a lake, river, stream or fire hydrant.

A ladder truck with a platform at the top that allows several firefighters to stand and fight large fires from above. An air supply brings constant air to the firefighters so they can stand in the platform, which is often subject to heavy smoke rising from the fire below. A tower crew performs like a ladder truck crew, but also may stand in the platform for prolonged periods of time managing a water turret gun that applies water from a height down on top of the fire. See also ladder truck.

Utility Truck
A non-water truck or other, usually temporarily-used, vehicle, such as a pickup truck that is used in special or severe conditions for remote access or to minimize harsh conditions on other fire vehicles. For example in winter, with the risk of freezing fire engine water tanks and lines, some fire department put a utility truck in service to handle unconfirmed automatic fire alarms and emergency medical calls.

Rescue Squad or “Squad”
A fire vehicle with tools and equipment for rescue, especially for extrication of victims trapped in serious car crashes. At a fire scene the squad crew often performs primary searches, walking and crawling on the floor of smokey rooms and checking for collapsed fire victims in the burning building. Crews from other vehicles may also be assigned to primary and secondary searches. See also RESCUE ...

Ambulance or Paramedic Ambulance
Used as a first responder and transport vehicle for patients with medical emergencies. In some cities there are two types of ambulance: BLS (Basic Life Support) and ALS (Advanced Life Support — full paramedic capability). On the fire scene one ambulance can serve as a rehab ambulance where firefighters go to get hydrated, rested and refreshed from strenuous exertion, fire, heat and smoke conditions. Usually their vital signs are monitored during “rehab” to make sure they are safe to continue firefighting. See also EMS ...