CHIEF CONCERNS RICHARD MARINUCCI
New 85 gallon poly water tank,
sight gauges and stainless steel piping
55 or 70 gallon poly water
tank with stainless steel piping
A universal design to fit most make
& model UTV 4x4 and 6x6 vehicles
2163 Vermont Rt. 5A, Westmore, VT 05860
up to 200 gallon poly water tank with
stainless steel piping
2300 skid units.
Is your town next?
Form vs. Function
The most basic fire engine function is delivering water.
As the fire service has expanded its role and discovered
better ways to deliver service, the fire engine, or
pumper as it is called in some parts, does more than
take water from a source and deliver it to the fire.
Engines carry special rescue equipment,
ground ladders, and forcible entry tools that
provide some rudimentary truck company functions and other items that support
overall fire department operations such as
generators and lights.
Since the fire engine basics are essentially the same, it begs the question—why
are there so many different looks to these
pieces? Obviously manufacturers have their
own “architectures” and designs that help
identify their products. Chassis manufacturers, whether commercial or custom, also
contribute to styling differences—either
because of the basics of the chassis or the
chassis’ impact on fire truck manufacturers’
ability to design the final apparatus.
Obviously the most important things for
a fire engine are to be able to provide the
core services along with any other ancillary
requirements. Overwhelmingly they do, and
fire departments get the service they desire
and the engine remains a workhorse. Yet
many departments also consider the look of
their apparatus as important. The appearance of the fire engine has some intangible
benefits to a fire department. If this were
not the case, manufacturers could stamp
out clones and push out more vehicles.
The look of fire apparatus is as much
about personal taste as anything else.
Everyone has an opinion of what the truck
should look like and their own preferences.
This is not unusual. Automobiles are different looking, and buyers often consider styling as much as or more than functionality.
The selection of fire trucks is not much different, although there isn’t as much variety
or as many options. There are only so many
ways you can design an engine.
One of the most interesting discussions
regarding fire trucks is about color and
color scheme. Since the beginning of the
fire service in this country, red has always
been identified as the color of a fire truck.
Almost all children’s books confirm this!
But approximately 30 to 40 years ago, lime
green was introduced in the interest of safety. The color was promoted as easier to see
and helpful in preventing crashes. This pitted traditionalists against those who considered themselves more progressive. Lately
this debate has not been as high-profile as
it was, although there are still occasions
where the debate continues.
Regardless, it opened up more discussion
regarding the color of fire apparatus. Today
you can see many different colors of fire
trucks, some very nontraditional. They can
be black, blue, orange, green, yellow, or some
other variation. Some informal conversa-
tions I have had with some department per-
sonnel revealed that the reasons vary from
a departmental tradition, to a desire to be
unique, to a fire chief’s preference. There are
probably more reasons. Some have said that
they want to copy another department that
Besides the color itself, there are color
combination choices—white over red, black
over red, and so on—and reflective material that offer a lot of options. Even on the
back of the vehicle, where National Fire
Protection Association (NFPA) standards
require reflective material, departments
adjust the design to their tastes while complying with the standard. Other markings promote branding and style. There
are many ways to affix reflective tape, and
departments are taking the opportunity to
show off their creativity and individuality. Some select a more modern design while
others retain some sense of tradition. Either
way makes no difference and allows for creative expression.
Although many truck components allow
for little change in form, there are some
things departments do to dress up their
appearance. It can be with the wheels and
tires or even the exhaust system. Again,
this is often personal preference but may be
subject to budgetary constraints or possibly political issues. Vehicles that appear too
showy could be considered a waste of taxpayer funds and subject an organization
to excessive scrutiny. There is a fine line
between looking good and going too far. It
is important for the fire chief and organization to know the limits and respect them.
Fire Truck Definitions
To some, a fire truck is a fire truck. As
long as it is reliable, carries the right equip-
ment, and delivers the water to the fire, it is
a good piece. For others, the apparatus can
be a significant point of pride and identi-
ty. It can help establish the brand and help
with marketing and public relations. There
is no doubt that the appearance of a fire
engine is important to many, and that is a
good thing. It sends a message to the mem-
bers of the organization and to the public
being protected by it.
Some people believe that there is no need
for anything more than a basic-looking fire
truck. But, others will argue that the pride
that can be generated in an organization can
help in many ways. The benefits are not easily measured or quantifiable, but those with
experience can attest to the value. Those most
proud of their vehicles are likely to treat them
better and make sure they are maintained in
peak condition. The pride can also extend to
the public, as long as the vehicle is not over
the top, which can generate more support for
the emergency service. And don’t forget the
children. Good-looking, shiny trucks really
impress them and, hence, their parents.
Pride in vehicles can translate into pride
in everything. Those organizations that pursue excellence know that it requires all components of the system to pursue excellence.
Having and maintaining vehicles that look
good can instill better discipline and camaraderie throughout a department, which
can translate into improved teamwork
and a culture that works toward continual service improvement. Although you can’t
always judge a book by its cover and appearances are somewhat superficial, there is a
correlation between performance and the
pride that people have in their organizations. If dressing up a fire engine improves
morale and doesn’t appear overdone, there
is some benefit to the department.
The beauty of a fire engine certainly is in
the eye of the beholder. So many things can
contribute to the overall appearance including the color or color combinations and various external components. Firefighters of
all ranks prefer to ride around in something
that looks good. Having pride in their apparatus is a good thing and has some effect on
performance. Working in good surroundings with good-looking equipment helps
motivate personnel to maintain the trucks
and sends a message that their performance
It may not seem like a big thing and it
probably isn’t. But sometimes little things distinguish really good organizations from the
great ones. Know where the line is between
having a good-looking truck and overdoing it,
and get something that will make the organization and community proud.
RICHARD MARINUCCI is chief of the
Northville Township (MI) Fire Department. He
retired as chief of the Farmington Hills (MI) Fire
Department in 2008, a position he had held
since 1984. He is a Fire Apparatus & Emergency
Equipment editorial advisory board member, a
past president of the International Association
of Fire Chiefs (IAFC), and past chairman of the
Commission on Chief Fire Officer Designation. In
1999, he served as acting chief operating officer
of the U.S. Fire Administration for seven months.
He has a master’s degree and three bachelor’s
degrees in fire science and administration and
has taught extensively.
Vehicles that appear
too showy could be
considered a waste
of taxpayer funds.