A fire engine is a vehicle that is designed to help in fighting fires. A fire engine carries hoses, a pump, a water tank and breathing equipment. It will also have rescue equipment, such as ladders, ropes and cutting tools, and usually first aid kits as well. A fire engine brings firefighters to the scene from the fire station. It will also have sirens and flashing lights to warn traffic along the way.
In the Middle Ages, the only way to fight a fire was with buckets of water. In the 16th century, hand-powered pumps were invented. In the 19th century, the design of these pumps was improved, so that horses could wheel them to the scene. Later, steam power was used to turn both the pumps and the wheels. The first modern fire engine was invented in 1905 by Knox Automobile in Springfield, Massachusetts.
Special types of fire service vehicles include:
- Ladder truck: Although a normal fire engine often carries a ladder, these trucks carry very high ladders with a basket on the end. These can be used for allowing water to be squirted from high up, to bring firefighters up to a high position, as an escape route for firefighters, and for rescuing other people.
- In turn, there are different types of ladder truck. A turntable ladder has a long, straight ladder. An aerial ladder platform cannot reach as high, but its ladder can bend in the middle. A quint is a ladder truck that also has a pump.
- Water tender: A truck for carrying water.
- Heavy rescue vehicle: A vehicle that carries special rescue equipment that is not found in a normal fire engine.
- Hazmat vehicle: A vehicle for dealing with dangerous chemicals.
- Airport crash tender: A fire engine for use at airports, designed for responding to aircraft disasters.
- Command unit: A large truck that acts as a base for senior firefighters during a big incident.