All About Fire Trucks

The history of firefighting did not always include fire trucks with tools and water to help firefighters put out fires. In the early days of the United States, when fires broke out, neighbors had to help each other. They formed long rows of people, passing buckets full of water from one person to the next to bring water to the fires. These bucket brigades eventually were replaced by fire engines, and slowly, firefighting became something that was done by professional firefighters. Fire trucks have changed a lot, too, since they were first used to fight fires, becoming bigger, more powerful, and highly specialized to fight many different types of fires.

Passing buckets down a line to put out a fire was hard work, and this method of firefighting usually wasn't very effective for putting out fires before they burned down houses and barns. Designing and building a fire engine that would carry and pump water was an important step toward fighting fires successfully. Richard Newsham patented the first fire engine pump in 1721 in Europe. His pump could hold 170 gallons of water. In 1743, Thomas Lote was the first person to design and build a fire engine in the United States. Horses pulled the first fire engines to fires, and the firefighters themselves ran to the fires as fast as they could. Almost 100 years later, the first steam-powered fire engine was built, which helped firefighters get to fires more quickly. At around this time, the first running boards were installed on fire engines, which let firefighters climb on and ride to the fires.

The aerial ladder was invented in 1868, which made it possible to fight fires in taller buildings. The first aerial ladders were made of wood, and they were about 85 feet long. Slowly, over the next decades, aerial ladders got longer. By 1930, aerial ladders reached heights of up to 150 feet to help put out fires in taller and taller buildings. These aerial ladders eventually got special platforms on the end that firefighters could stand on so they could go higher to fight fires and still stay safe.

In the 1960s, fire trucks got many new features, such as water pumps and enclosed seats for the firefighters. Modern fire trucks carry lots of different tools in special compartments. These tools include fans, nozzles, axes, fire extinguishers, cutters, and Halligan bars, which are like big crowbars. Aerial ladders on modern fire trucks go up and down, powered by hydraulic piston rods. Floodlights are also mounted on fire trucks to help firefighters see while they're working. Hoses mounted on top of fire trucks can spray up to 1,000 gallons of water every minute, and powerful pump panels on the trucks give the firefighters control over the pressure and flow of the hoses. Inside the cabs of modern fire trucks, firefighters have powerful thermal imaging cameras, radio systems, gas monitors, and computers that connect the firefighters with people back at the fire station.

Fire stations often have different types of fire trucks designed to fight different types of fires. A fire engine or fire tender is a basic type of fire truck with hoses and pumps for spraying water on fires. Tanker trucks are useful in rural areas without fire hydrants: Tanker trucks carry water for fighting fires. Foam tender trucks are similar to tanker trucks, but these fire trucks carry special chemical foam for fighting fires instead of using water. Aerial fire trucks have aerial ladders, platforms, and water towers that will raise firefighters high into the air to fight fires in tall buildings. The aerial ladders can be different lengths depending on the height of the buildings in the area. Some fire stations also have support unit trucks that carry tools and equipment that firefighters might need.

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