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Fun Facts About Firefighters & Their Gear

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Whether you have a 3-year-old at home who is crazy for firefighters or you used to be a 3-year-old and are still crazy about firefighters, you need to know some facts about firefighters and their gear. That way, the next time you hear that familiar \"Wee-ooo\" sound, you'll be able to answer all the questions that come your way.

Early History of Fighting Fires in the U.S.

In early colonial times, bucket brigades were formed to put out fires. As towns grew, that became insufficient, and in 1678, the first engine company was founded in Boston. They used a manual pump, which had a small tank that was supplied with water by a bucket brigade. In 1736, Benjamin Franklin organized the first volunteer fire-fighting society, called the Union Fire Company.

Firefighter Statistics

The U.S. Fire Administration estimates that as of 2007, there were 1,148,800 firefighters in the United States. Of those, nearly 72 percent were volunteers. Three-quarters of all firefighters are between the ages of 20 and 49. Women make up approximately 3.7 percent of career firefighters. In 2007, 118 firefighters died in the line of duty; 58 percent of those were volunteers, and 42 percent were career firefighters.

Fire Department Calls

According to the National Fire Protection Association, in 2008 there were more than 25 million calls for fire department services. Of those, only about 1.5 million were actual fires. Nine percent of those calls were false alarms. Approximately 62 percent of calls were for medical aid.

Firefighting Clothing and Gear

In the firehouse, firefighters usually wear a uniform of fire-resistant pants, safety boots and a logo T-shirt. For fighting fires, they wear \"turnout\" pants. The pants get their name from being \"turned out\" over their special rubber boots, which have handles on them so firefighters can step into the boots and pull the pants up easily. These insulated pants are held up with suspenders. A long jacket is made of the same insulated material, which protects firefighters from temperatures up to 1200 degrees Fahrenheit. Firefighters also wear a special hood, a helmet, goggles and insulated gloves. All the protective clothing has reflective striping, so firefighters can be seen better in dark or smoky conditions. Firefighters are also equipped with a flashlight, a radio, a positive pressure mask, and an air tank.

Fire Apparatus

The three most common types of fire trucks are pumper trucks, tanker trucks, and ladder trucks. Pumper trucks and tanker trucks are both about 30 feet long. A pumper truck may hold some water but primarily relies on attaching hoses to fire hydrants or other water sources. Tanker trucks carry more than a thousand gallons of water. Ladder trucks are 40 to 50 feet long, and have a very long telescopic ladder on top.


Alexis Vega-Singer has been an editor for ten years, doing general copyediting and developmental and production editing for ESL textbooks. She has an A.M. from Harvard in Greek and Latin Philology.

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