13 Things You Didn't Know About Fire Trucks

Rare is the child that doesn't stare in awe as a fire truck roars by. Or maybe it's a fire engine. There's a huge difference between the two, as any firefighter will be quick to tell you, and that's only one of 13 things you likely didn't know about fire trucks...and/or fire engines. Here are the rest.

1. The earliest known fire engine was actually from Ancient Greece

It was just a huge pump that shot water. The concept disappeared for a while (well, more like 1,700 years) before reappearing in Europe. It later evolved into the horse-drawn carriage fire engine you see here.

2. Dalmations were the original emergency sirens

They’re intelligent, good watchdogs, and great with horses. They'd actually run ahead of the horses to clear a path en route to a fire.

3. Modern fire trucks have been around since the start of the 20th century

That goes hand-in-hand with the spread of the automobile, so it’s hardly shocking. This one's a 1905 Knox from Springfield, Mass.

4. There’s actually a huge difference between a fire engine and a fire truck

A fire engine (foreground) brings hoses and pumps to the scene, while a truck (background) generally brings the huge ladders.

5. Depending on the situation, an engine can blast a ton of superfine mist

The theory is that mist absorbs heat faster than a pure stream of water, and that when it expands, it displaces all the oxygen, extinguishing the fire.

6. They also make their own foam

It’s alot lighter than pure water, making it much easier for firemen to handle the recoil from the hose. It also uses up to 75% less water, which means less damage to whatever it is that’s (hopefully) no longer on fire.

7. A hook and ladder truck is exactly what it says it is

It's called a TDA—a tractor-drawn aerial—and it's essentially a tractor-trailer (like an 18-wheeler on the highway), where the trailer (i.e. the part with the ladder) gets hooked onto the back of the truck.

8. TDAs, also called tillers, use two different drivers

They essentially fill the role of both engine and truck, so they're not exactly the lightest things to maneuver at breakneck speed through city streets, nor are they maneuverable in tight confines. There's a driver in back, known as a tillerman, who's responsible for steering the rear wheels. You know, like Kramer.

9. Ladder trucks can operate in winds of up to 50 mph

Stick your hand out of your car window at 50 mph. Now imagine being on a narrow ladder next to a flaming building ten stories up in that wind. Yeah.

10. And for skyscrapers, some trucks can even get a fireman over 300 feet into the air

This is called the Bronto, after Brontosaurus. Anyone with a fear of heights need not apply.

11. The fastest fire engine in the world is the jet-powered Hawaiian Eagle

It has two Rolls Royce jet engines that put out a total of 12,000 pounds of thrust. It’ll do the quarter mile in seven seconds at over 200 mph.

Ironically, it shoots out massive flames, and can burn a building down much faster than it can put out a fire.

12. Meanwhile, most fire trucks have between 450 and 600 hp

That might sound like a lot, but when you consider how damn heavy they are, it’s really barely enough.

13. Fire Engine Red should really be lime-yellow

Numerous studies have shown that traffic accidents involving green-to-yellow trucks are far lower than accidents involving traditional red trucks, because they’re more readily visible to the human eye. According to the U.S. Fire Administration, 10 percent of all firefighter deaths occur as a result of traffic accidents, so this is kind of a big deal.

Aaron Miller is the Rides editor for Supercompressor, and can be found on Twitter. He's never driven a fire truck. Or a fire engine.