Have you ever wondered what the different vehicles Firefighters drive are? It’s an important part of the job – after all, it’s critical for Firefighters to get to the scene both quickly and safely, and the incident they’re called out to might not be the most easily accessible!
Let’s take a look at the different vehicles Firefighters drive, from the more ‘traditional’ to the unusual.
Aerial Ladder Platform Vehicles
Aerial Ladder Platforms (ALP) are used for high-rise rescues, and probably look like the ‘typical’ kind of fire engine you’d imagine driving as a Firefighter, with an aerial ladder or turntable ladder on top. Sometimes these types of vehicle have a hydraulic platform instead.
These have the capability to get into the majority of areas, and can be used from everything from a water tower, to rescuing the public from high areas, or a platform for rescue teams to abseil from if required!
A cage at the end of the ladder allows rescue of individuals or a platform to direct a hose from. They have an operating height of 32m (around ten storeys) and thermal and optical cameras along with piped breathing apparatus to increase Firefighter safety.
Major Rescue Unit
The Major Rescue Unit (MRU) is a specialist HGV vehicle that provides support at incidents requiring heavy rescue equipment. They’re often used in road traffic accidents. Crews will have had specialist training to enable them to provide safe working areas for extricating casualties safely and as quickly as possible.
It’s similar to an ultra-heavy rescue unit, which carries equipment for use at road traffic incidents involving large goods vehicles and coaches. These have a crew of up to six Firefighters, along with firefighting and ultra-heavy rescue equipment. They’re also fitted with a touch-screen data system (Mobile Data Terminal or MDT) to allow the crew instant access to important information.
Incident Command Unit
Again a large vehicle, the purpose of the Incident Command Unit is to attend incidents that require six or more other vehicles. It then acts as a kind of mobile ‘command centre’, providing a focal point and a greater degree of control at larger-scale incidents where other emergency services and agencies can collaborate with the Fire Service to share information regarding the incident.
You might also have a Welfare Support Unit at the scene, a smaller vehicle providing toilet facilities for operational staff, along with a seating area for resting and eating.
Rapid Response Vehicle
The primary role of these vehicles is a rapid response to road traffic collisions. They’re usually large 4x4s with powerful engines, like Range Rovers. They’ll carry Firefighters along with lightweight cutting equipment and rapid intervention first aid equipment for dealing with trauma and critical care at the roadside.
Targeted Response Vehicle
This is a smaller fire engine, which is normally utilised for ‘nuisance’ and small fires. It’s capable of carrying approximately 1000 litres of water, a fire pump and an integrated compressed air foam system. Some FRSs allocate one of these vehicles to their Fire Cadets (if they run the programme) for their training and development.
High Volume Pump
A High Volume Pump does what it says on the tin, and is used to pump high volumes of water to an incident to tackle fires – this may be from a river or lake. It can also be used to pump water away from flood-affected areas. These vehicles are considered nationally controlled assets, and as such may be called to operate or support any FRS across the nation.
You might also see some more unusual vehicles, for example if you’re posted at a coastal or rural location.
- Agrocats – eight-wheeled, off-road vehicles, usually transported on a trailer towed by a Land Rover.
- Motorbikes, used to promote motorbike safety as part of the Road Safety Initiative.
- Emergency Rescue Boats, towed on a trailer by a dedicated Water Rescue Vehicle. These could be inflatable ‘dinghy’ type boats or bigger, faster ones capable of carrying paramedics and emergency supplies.
- Environmental Protection Units, with a specially trained crew and specialist equipment to contain chemical spillages that could harm the environment and wildlife.
- Officer cars for Fire Officers to take the role of incident commanders – these are special vehicles that look like civilian cars, but at the press of a button have blue lights and sirens – like undercover police cars!
The different vehicles Firefighters drive will vary from FRS to FRS, and will depend on location. There are also many more variations of emergency response vehicles – technology and engineering is evolving all the time!
You’ll receive specialist training before being asked to drive any of these vehicles, or operate any of the equipment on board. You don’t need a special licence before you apply!
It might seem overwhelming, but it’s all part of the challenge and variety of the role, and this is exactly what attracts so many applicants to a Firefighter career.