A fire engine is a motor vehicle which is designed to carry personnel and equipment which can be used to fight fires. Many people use the term “fire apparatus” or “fire truck” to describe such vehicles, as the term “fire engine” can be used to refer to a specific type of fire truck. There are a number of different types of fire trucks, ranging from lightweight wildland firefighting apparatus which is designed to travel off-road to massive ladder trucks which can allow firefighters to reach the upper stories of a building.
In many cases, a fire truck fulfills only one function. A tanker, for example, is used to transport water or chemical fire suppressant to the site of a fire, while a pumper, also called a fire engine, has an engine which can be used to pump water from a tanker, hydrant, or another water source. Hose trucks carry lengths of hose along with tools, while other trucks are equipped with ladders or hydraulic platforms for reaching high fires. In addition, fire departments often have rescue vehicles with medical equipment. It is also possible to see multi-function fire trucks.
Several companies around the world manufacture fire trucks. These trucks are designed to endure for decades, with some fire departments using fire trucks which are over 50 years old, especially in rural areas, where budgets do not allow for the purchase of the latest and greatest equipment. Fire trucks are also very heavy-duty, because they need to carry large amounts of gear, and they are designed to be driven rapidly to the site of a fire, with a variety of auditory and visual warnings to clear people from the road.
In addition to being used to actually fight fires, a fire engine may also be used as an educational and public relations tool for a fire department. Fire departments which offer fire safety lessons for schools and businesses may bring a fire engine to the lesson to allow people to explore the truck, and to provide a ready assortment of tools and uniforms to demonstrate. Fire trucks are also used in parades and other civic events to increase visibility for the fire department, and they typically stand by at major events in case a rapid fire response is needed.
In addition to working fire engines which are used on calls, some fire departments keep what are known as muster vehicles. Muster vehicles are antique fire trucks which have been carefully maintained to retain their vintage character, and these vehicles are displayed at events known as musters, which typically involve gatherings of multiple fire departments. Muster trucks may also be used ceremonially in parades, with some departments also using muster trucks in funeral professions for fallen comrades.