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ARFF Trucks vs. Municipal Trucks – Why are airport fire trucks different?

Oshkosh Airport Products ARFF vehicle compared to a Pierce Manufacturing municipal fire truck

Firefighters respond to emergencies in a wide variety of environments which require the proper type of equipment to safely and effectively get the job done. Airports are a particularly unique environment and utilize specialized Aircraft Rescue and Firefighting trucks, or ARFF trucks, that are designed to handle emergencies involving airplanes.

You may have seen an airport fire truck operating on the tarmac while boarding a flight and noticed how different it looked compared to the fire trucks you see in your community. But what else makes these aircraft fire trucks so different from municipal fire trucks?

Water Supply

Water supply on a Pierce municipal fire truckAirport fire trucks typically have far more limited access to nearby water supplies from fire hydrants than municipal trucks do, which means they have to carry their water supply with the vehicle. For example, the Oshkosh Striker® 8x8 can carry up to 4,500 gallons of water at a time. Because of the added weight from the additional water, an airport fire truck has a much larger and wider wheelbase than municipal trucks.

Municipal trucks can also carry water with them, with tank options available in a variety of different sizes based on the type of apparatus and a community’s needs. For comparison, Pierce fire apparatus water tanks vary greatly in size and the level of customization available depending on if the vehicle is a pumper, aerial, tanker or other type of truck. One differentiation for municipal fire trucks and ARFF fire trucks is in many locations, communities make hydrants available for municipal trucks to connect to and access a greater water supply.

Fire Suppression

Fire suppression Snozzle turret on Oshkosh StrikerIn addition to water, both ARFF and municipal fire trucks have the ability to carry additional firefighting agents on board. But airport fire trucks must be able to carry a greater variety of agents than municipal trucks because of the nature of the fires they encounter. Aircraft fires can spread very quickly and burn more intensely with the type of fuel carried on board. It’s extremely important to be able to neutralize an aircraft fire as quickly as possible.

There are three primary fire suppressants an ARFF truck can carry:
  • Water
  • Firefighting Foam
  • Dry Chemicals
Firefighting foam is mixed with water and often used for fuel spills because it coats surfaces and suppresses the fire by cutting off its oxygen supply. Additionally, there are numerous types of dry chemicals which can be used in different situations including the suppression of chemical and electrical fires. Dry chemicals are frequently used in industrial settings, where chemical and electrical fires are at a high risk. Dry chemicals are only used when needed due to the fine particulates which spread easily over a large area and require thorough cleanup.

An airport fire truck also has the option for nozzles to be mounted on the exterior of the vehicle and on a boom which allows for fire suppressant attack from many angles, including in the air, on the ground, and far below grade. The Oshkosh Snozzle® High Reach Extendable Turret can be operated from inside of the cab and is an incredibly beneficial feature. The Snozzle HRET reduces, or even eliminates, the need for hoses which take time to set up on scene and may require firefighters to get too close to the fire. It can also penetrate the outside of an aircraft from 50 or 65 feet to deploy fire suppressants directly inside the aircraft and release up to 250 gallons of water per minute.

Municipal fire trucks can also be equipped with the Snozzle HRET, using the piercing tip to penetrate a structure. Fire departments can decide to use a nozzle only version of the feature to give firefighters an elevated water source to attack a fire.

How Fast Can Airport Fire Trucks Go?

Oshkosh Striker speeding to a scene at an airportThe NFPA (National Fire Protection Association) sets standards for both ARFF trucks and municipal fire trucks. The acceleration requirements are more aggressive for the airport fire trucks because it is critical to arrive at the aircraft before the fire reaches the fuel tanks, where extremely flammable jet fuel is stored.
Airport fire trucks are required to be able to accelerate from 0 to 50 miles per hour in 25 seconds or less and reach a top speed of at least 70 miles per hour. Municipal trucks on the other hand must be able to accelerate from 0 to 35 miles per hour in 25 seconds and reach a top speed of at least 50 miles per hour.

Difference in Operating Environments

Oshkosh Striker in service at an airportAirport fire trucks are typically much better suited for off-road driving than municipal trucks. They will often have special off-road tires and a suspension system built for rougher, off-road terrain which may exist on or near an airport. The Oshkosh Striker ARFF truck comes standard with the Oshkosh TAK-4™all-wheel independent suspension, which is critical when trying to reach a plane which has landed off the paved runway.

Municipal fire trucks will most often operate on paved surfaces including local streets and freeways. Some fire trucks in suburban and rural areas may include off-road capabilities. Municipal fire departments can also choose the TAK-4 Independent Suspension or TAK-4 T3 Independent Rear Suspension with tight turning technology, for improved ride quality and to match the needs of their service area.

The ultimate goal of airport and municipal firefighters is the same; to extinguish fires, mitigate damage, and above all, save lives. ARFF trucks provide customized capabilities for the unique airport environments they operate in.

Are you ready to learn more about the unique and customizable attributes of Oshkosh Airport Products ARFF trucks? Contact our knowledgeable team today or post a question in the comments below.

Topics: ARFF, Trucks

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About Oshkosh Airport Products

Oshkosh Airport Products, a division of Pierce Manufacturing Inc., a subsidiary of Oshkosh Corporation (NYSE:OSK), is a designer and builder of industry-leading airport firefighting vehicles. Its flagship Striker® Aircraft Rescue and Fire Fighting (ARFF) vehicles are known for their durability and superior performance and sold throughout the world. For more information, visit

About Oshkosh Corporation

At Oshkosh (NYSE: OSK), we make innovative, mission-critical equipment to help everyday heroes advance communities around the world. Headquartered in Wisconsin, Oshkosh Corporation employs approximately 17,000 team members worldwide, all united behind a common purpose: to make a difference in people’s lives. Oshkosh products can be found in more than 150 countries under the brands of JLG®, Hinowa, Power Towers, Pierce®, MAXIMETAL, Oshkosh® Defense, McNeilus®, IMT®, Jerr-Dan®, Frontline™ Communications, Oshkosh® Airport Products, Oshkosh AeroTech™ and Pratt Miller. For more information, visit

®, ™ All brand names referred to in this news release are trademarks of Oshkosh Corporation or its subsidiary companies.

Forward Looking Statements

This news release contains statements that the Company believes to be “forward-looking statements” within the meaning of the Private Securities Litigation Reform Act of 1995. All statements other than statements of historical fact, including, without limitation, statements regarding the Company’s future financial position, business strategy, targets, projected sales, costs, earnings, capital expenditures, debt levels and cash flows, and plans and objectives of management for future operations, are forward-looking statements. When used in this news release, words such as “may,” “will,” “expect,” “intend,” “estimate,” “anticipate,” “believe,” “should,” “project” or “plan” or the negative thereof or variations thereon or similar terminology are generally intended to identify forward-looking statements. These forward-looking statements are not guarantees of future performance and are subject to risks, uncertainties, assumptions and other factors, some of which are beyond the Company’s control, which could cause actual results to differ materially from those expressed or implied by such forward-looking statements. These factors include the Company's ability to successfully integrate the AeroTech acquisition and to realize the anticipated benefits associated with the same; the risks associated with international operations and sales, including compliance with the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act;  the Company’s ability to comply with complex laws and regulations applicable to U.S. government contractors; cybersecurity risks and costs of defending against, mitigating and responding to data security threats and breaches impacting the Company; the Company’s ability to successfully identify, complete and integrate other acquisitions and to realize the anticipated benefits associated with the same; and risks related to the Company’s ability to successfully execute on its strategic road map and meet its long-term financial goals. Additional information concerning these and other factors is contained in the Company’s filings with the Securities and Exchange Commission. All forward-looking statements speak only as of the date of this news release. The Company assumes no obligation, and disclaims any obligation, to update information contained in this news release. Investors should be aware that the Company may not update such information until the Company’s next quarterly earnings conference call, if at all.

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