Fighting fires at any location requires the proper type of fire apparatus to get the job done. You may know that airports have their own separate types of fire trucks, but what makes these aircraft firefighting trucks so different from municipal fire trucks?
The first major difference is the higher amount of water that an ARFF truck carries compared to a municipal truck. ARFF trucks normally don’t have access to nearby water supplies like municipal trucks do via fire hydrants. At the scene of a crash, ARFF trucks must rely on what they can be carried in their water tanks. For example, the Oshkosh Striker 8x8 can carry up to 4,500 gallons of water at a time! That’s not to say municipal trucks can’t carry their fair share of water as well, but they generally carry less than their ARFF counterparts.
The water capacity leads us to our second big difference: acceleration. The NFPA (National Fire Protection Association) sets standards for both ARFF and municipal fire trucks. The acceleration requirements are set higher for ARFF vehicles, requiring that trucks with water capacities between 2,000 and 6,000 liters must be able to accelerate from 0 to 50 miles in 25 seconds or less. ARFF trucks are also required to reach a top speed of at least 70 miles per hour.
Municipal trucks must be able to accelerate for 0 to 35 miles per hour in 25 seconds, as well as reach a top speed of at least 50 miles per hour. That being said, there are many municipal trucks that are able to accelerate faster than ARFF trucks, but the minimum requirements just aren’t set as high.
Another big difference is that ARFF trucks carry a higher capacity of firefighting “agents” than municipal trucks do. This is because aircraft fires frequently have oil spills or other types of flammable materials that require more than just water to put out. Firefighting foam is used to put out oil spills, while dry chemical can be useful for electrical fires. Municipal trucks carry these agents too, but usually in a lower quantity.
One additional difference between ARFF trucks and municipal trucks is that ARFF trucks are typically much better suited for off-road driving. They normally come with special off-road tires, as well as a suspension system purposely built for off-road obstacles. The Oshkosh Strikers all come with the TAK-4 all-wheel independent suspension, which is critical when trying to reach a plane that has landed off the paved runway. Municipal trucks can also come with four-wheel drive, but you not as frequently as ARFF trucks do.
Airport firefighters and municipal firefighter both have the same goal in mind, but face different challenges when it comes to stopping fires and saving lives. Therefore, it is very important to know the differences among fire apparatus, and how to use their unique features when the time comes.