One of the most welcome sights in the world is that of a fire truck arriving at the scene of a fire. You know that it means that the fire will soon be out and that highly qualified professionals with excellent training and awesome equipment will be on hand to ensure the safety of life and property. But how much did they spend on that fire truck and was it worth the money they took from your taxes to pay for it?
A basic fire truck or engine with no equipment on it can cost as little as $250,000, but the price can go up to $6 million (rarely) depending on the type of vehicle. Then there’s the equipment too which can cost more than the truck itself.
Is this a good investment? We’d like to think so and here’s what you need to know about fire trucks.
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Fire Truck/Engine Types
If there was ever a question approaching “how long is a piece of string”? Then it might be “how much does a fire truck cost?”
This is because there are many different types of fire trucks:
- Fire Truck (Aerial, Ladder)
- Pumper Truck (also called Fire Engine)
- Heavy Rescue Vehicle
- Tiller Truck (seperate steering rear wheels)
- Wildland Fire Engines (5 Types)
- Quints (Aerial and Pumper combo)
- Water Tenders
- Plus any specialist fire trucks that are developed for unique local situations
It’s also because you can buy new fire trucks, refurbished fire trucks, and secondhand trucks as well as electric fire trucks.
You also need to take into account the cost of equipment to get a good handle on the overall price of the fire truck.
In fact, it turns out that purchasing a fire truck is a highly specialist job and one that can’t be carried out by flicking through a few fires fighting brochures and saying, “we want that one”.
It may take a period of months or years to carefully evaluate the needs of the fire department before they can start to put together their specifications and then get them to manufacturers for quotations and after the order is accepted, it can take a lot longer before a fire truck is delivered.
How Much Does A Fire Truck/Engine Cost?
A fire engine or a fire truck, assuming that you’re going to buy it brand new and that you’re going to add the equipment to the base price afterward doesn’t have a standard price.
A small truck like a water tender might cost $250,00, whereas a pumper (engine) could run you around $550,000.
There doesn’t seem to be any ceiling to the maximum price you can pay, in fact, we don’t know exactly how much the world’s most expensive fire truck cost (see below for details) but we do know that it will have run into millions of dollars.
Dover fire department estimates that it costs them $840,000 to put a fully equipped pumper engine on the road.
Writing on Quora, David Sandbrook, notes that CalFire is paying $330,000 per bare engine, but they were buying 30 wildland engines at once, this almost certainly brings about economies of scale – an individual engine probably costs considerably more, perhaps, $500,000.
The most expensive “standard” trucks are those with ladders and depending on the layout they can easily cost more than $1 million per aerial ladder fire truck.
In fact, according to The Morning Call, a ladder truck for Forks, Indiana was estimated to cost $2.5 million and this has led to local municipalities to start panicking about the cost of new fire trucks, as it’s far more than they’d budgeted for.
One thing that hasn’t been accounted for in this is that many fire departments are going to need to look a little farther forward in time and start to commission electric fire trucks and these vehicles appear to be even more expensive than the current diesel offerings.
Also read: How Much Does A Fire Station Cost?
How Much Do Electric Fire Trucks Cost?
Electric vehicles are the big thing in the modern world as they are meant to pollute less than vehicles that run on fossil fuels.
We’re not qualified to have the debate as to whether this is entirely true and this site isn’t targeted at eco-arguments either.
What we can tell you is that electric fire trucks are not cheap.
The Los Angeles fire department, back in February 2020, placed its order for its first electric fire truck and it came in at an incredible $1.2 million!
It doesn’t look like a traditional fire truck and, in fact, if you didn’t look twice, then you might mistake it for a city bus rather than a fire truck.
It’s not wholly electric, mind you, as running out of battery at the scene of a fire could be more than a “bit inconvenient” but it runs for 2 hours on a charge before needing to switch to the backup diesel engine.
If this change seems a bit “modern”, the LA fire service would like to remind you that in 1921 people said the same thing about swapping horse-drawn fire trucks for motorized ones.
It’s worth noting though that this is not the most expensive electric fire truck.
The folks at Rosenbauer (a fire truck manufacturer based in Austria) have just sold one of their models for $6 million to the Menlo Park Fire District!
The delivery won’t take place until 2022 and while this is a very expensive fire truck, the fire department expects to save a huge amount of money on maintenance as the electric fire truck is said to be super easy to maintain.
Also read: How Much Does It Cost To Call An Ambulance?
What’s The Most Expensive Fire Truck?
There’s one fire truck that is assumed to be the most expensive in the world, however, we don’t know exactly what it cost.
Why is it supposed to be the most expensive of all time? Well, two reasons. The first is that the Falcon 8×8 is the world’s largest fire truck and the second is that it was made for Dubai and in Dubai.
The emirate is famous for its “money’s no object” approach to the world and we can probably assume that they weren’t going to be fussed about breaking the record for buying a fire truck.
It is huge though.
It has 8 wheels, 900 horsepower, and weighs an absolutely incredible 54 tons – that’s about the same as a large house.
It can still go from 0 to 80 Km/hour in under 25 seconds though!
It’s a beast because it’s meant to provide rapid response when a fire breaks out on an airport runway – and so it carries 16,000 liters of water as well as nearly 2,000 liters of foam on board!
It’s also full of the latest high-tech fire fighting equipment and the co-pilot can operate a roof-mounted water gun from a high-tech cockpit which allows for precision delivery of water to any part of a burning aircraft.
It can also fire the foam that we mentioned earlier as well as dry powder if needed and that means it can handle fuel fires and electrical fires with ease too.
The truck also has a water cannon underneath! This is not because the Falcon 8 x 8 can fly, though this being Dubai – it may happen on the next release, but because it prevents the ground from under the fire truck from catching fire and thus, stops the fire truck from melting or burning.
The Falcon 8 x 8 is the end result of work from 2,000 engineers working over 6 million square feet of facility and it’s meant to be the most complete firefighting vehicle of its kind ever made.
Certainly, it helps to explain the success of the Al-Khatib group which makes it.
It was founded in 1991 and over 30 years has grown to be a company with offices in more than 100 countries employing over 20,000 people!
You can see some other unique fire trucks in this video:
What Kind of Equipment Goes on A Fire Truck?
A lot depends on what, exactly, a fire truck will be used for as to the equipment, gear, and tools that will be installed on it.
For example, an airport fire truck is likely to look very different from a fire truck that is deployed to fight forest fires.
Most fire trucks/engines, however, will contain some of the following:
- Hundreds of feet of various size hoses (both for attacking the fire and supplying water from hydrants and other water sources)
- Ground ladders
- A high GPM deluge/deck gun
- A turntable ladder (on trucks, not pumper engines)
- Air tanks (for SCBAs)
- Self Contained Breathing Apparatus (SCBA) for all crew members
- Fire extinguishers
- Flood lights and hand lights
- Hydraulic rescue tools (Jaws of Life)
- Pump panels (for controlling pressure and volume of water used to each hoseline)
- Radio and communication equipment
- Reference books
- Specialist heavy recure gear (ropes, pulleys, harnesses, etc.)
- Thermal Imaging Cameras
- Ventilation fans
- Water (500 gallon tank is common on city fire engines)
- Hand tools like axes, sledge hammers, and halligans
- And a lot more!
Take a look at this video to see Richland, Washington Firefighters giving a tour of the tools and equipment on their fire engine:
How Much Does The Equipment on A Fire Truck Cost?
It very much depends on what needs to be installed in the truck and you would be amazed at how expensive certain items can be.
For example, would you believe that upgrading a truck’s ordinary lights to LED can cost up to $16,500?
Or that installing a compressor, alone, can run to $130,000?
What we can say is that the outfitting of a fire truck can often cost as much as the base truck, itself and sometimes even more.
It is perfectly possible for a $250,000 chassis to end up costing up to $1 million once you’ve installed all the equipment needed on it.
You can see some example pricing for fire truck gear on SVI Refurb’s website.
It’s worth noting that they are one of many different suppliers competing in this field and their pricing should be taken as a “rough guide” as opposed to the exact costs of any individual job for a fire department outfitting a truck in your neighborhood.
If you’d like a worked example of how this works, you can check out the Lewiston Sun’s breakdown of a $1 million engine.
They don’t offer exact pricing for each option on the fire truck, something which would surely be impractical, but they do help you understand the breakdown of the constituent elements and how they impact the fire service’s ability to deliver a better standard of firefighting.
How Long Does A Fire Truck Last?
As you’ve learned, fire trucks aren’t cheap and thus, the longevity of fire trucks is a serious concern for fire chiefs.
If you’ve got a fire service with an extended fleet of vehicles, every time that you replace one, you’re looking at an outlay that potentially runs into the millions.
Fortunately, fire trucks are not fragile creations, and assuming that they’re well maintained (a job that is often performed by the fire crew that staffs the truck) they can last for up to 20 years in the job.
That makes a $1 million fire truck a $50,000 a year investment excluding any equipment that you need to replace or update along the way.
However, one other challenge for fire truck fleets is the time to deliver a new truck.
They can’t wait for one to break down and then replace it in an instant.
These expensive vehicles aren’t produced in huge quantities and then left to sit around until they’re needed.
Instead, they’re built to order and that can mean a delay of up to one year between the order of the truck and its arrival at the station.
If you ever wondered why Fire Chiefs get paid, comparatively, the big bucks in a fire department, it’s their ability to juggle responsibilities like this so that the budget balances and the city/area has enough fire trucks to provide a service.
Can A Civilian Buy A Fire Truck?
Yes. There are no laws preventing civilians from buying a fire truck, however, it’s worth noting that this doesn’t mean that your local jurisdiction would take kindly to you deciding to set up a private fire service in your truck, and no, under no circumstances, are you allowed to use the water cannon on random members of the general public.
You might even find that you had problems getting the fire truck on the road at all. For example, in Pennsylvania, they don’t allow private vehicles to have emergency lighting or to use sirens, both of which are the standard designs for fire trucks.
Many of the accessories that are standard on fire trucks may also be prohibited by law, so while you could easily buy yourself a fire truck, you might have to just leave it parked at the end of your drive as it might not be possible to drive it anywhere without breaking the law.
If that doesn’t put you off your urge to buy a fire truck, may we recommend that you opt for buying a secondhand model, in order to save yourself some money and to make sure you’re not diverting a new vehicle away from one of the world’s fire services that need it to save lives with?
SFGate reports that many Californians are buying secondhand fire trucks for around $17,000 for a 1995 Japanese model, they’re a lot easier on the wallet than their new counterparts.
Where are they buying these fire trucks? Craigslist, of course. Seriously.
And due to the prevalence of wildfires in California over the recent years, it appears they will allow you to set up a private firefighting team that caters to local, and rich, residents.