Fire Department engine

January 1, 1853 – The world’s first practical steam-powered fire engine made its debut. With the success of this and other steam powered fire engines, the City of Cincinnati went on to create the first professional fire department in the United States.

Firetruck (fire engine, fire apparatus) – a vehicle designed to assist in fighting fires by transporting firefighters to the scene and providing them with access to the fire, along with water or other equipment.

A modern fire engine is usually a multi-purpose vehicle carrying firefighters and equipment for a wide range of firefighting and rescue tasks. Most fire engines carry equipment such as ladders, pike poles, axes and cutting equipment, halligan bars, ventilating equipment, floodlights, hose ramps, self-contained breathing apparatus (SCBA), and general tools.

Pumping water – The fire engine may have several methods of pumping water onto the fire, such as passing water obtained from a fire hydrant through hoses or using a pumping “cannon” (also known as a monitor or deck gun); some trucks have an onboard water reservoir.

hydraulics on a firetruck

Aircraft are frequently used to fight forest fires


That’s Engineering – How did they do that? How does it work? How might we WHAT for WHOM in order to CHANGE something?

Deliver water from underground city water pipes to firefighters to help put out a fire.

  • Fire Hydrant – Underground city water pipes used to deliver water to households are located near roads. There are fire hydrants attached to these water pipes that stick out of the ground. These hydrants have special valves and connections so that firefighters can attach hoses to the water supply. The fire hoses are then connected to the firetruck pumping system to suck up the water and pressurize it. Now the water can be split into several smaller hoses so the firefighters can spray the water on the fire from all sides.
  • city water system – network of pipes, pumps, reservoirs, water treatment plants to deliver clean water to houses throughout the city
  • valve – a device to control the flow of water. When not being used to fight fires, the fire hydrant valve is in the Off position so the water continues to flow through the underground water pipe. The value is opened (On) to allow the water to flow out of the connections on the hydrant into the hoses that firefighters attach to the fire hydrant.

Engineering ideas

  • diesel engine, chassis,

Do It
Challenges for you to work on…

  • design a special purpose firetruck. What are some unique features that you think would be helpful to firefighters?
  • look through the gallery of firetrucks and pick out the different features that can be included. What are some of the situations that required these specialized trucks?

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