Apparatus and Equipment – What’s the Difference?
Apparatus and Equipment are two very different things in the language of the Fire Department. Typically an apparatus is one of the different types of vehicle which are used by the department to meet different needs, whereas equipment consists of the different kinds of tools that might be carried on an apparatus to the scene of an emergency.
The Los Altos Hill County Fire District uses four kinds of apparatus:
Here is a closer look at these four kinds of firefighting apparatus:
A Truck is primarily characterized by the presence of a large ladder on top which can reach up to tall buildings. The vehicle may also do other things such as carry tools and water (much like an engine) to the scene of a fire, but the most important aspect that sets it apart is the extendable ladder on top which distinguishes it as a “truck”.
This is the Truck we have at the Foothill College Campus in the El Monte Fire Station. Note the ladder on top which distinguishes it as a “truck”.
An Engine is the primary piece of fire-fighting (as opposed to rescue) equipment. Besides the various type of equipment described below, it will carry a large tank of water (typically 600 gallons) and be equipped with pumps to be able to deliver the water through high-pressure hoses. It supports multiple hoses and is designed to remain stationary at the scene, where it may also be hooked to a fire hydrant which it will use to pump water to the hoses used by the fire hydrant. Thus it will mainly come into action for house fires and other structures downtown. Any easy way to remember this is to think of it as an “engine pumper”.
The “Engine” has firefighting as its primary role and would be the apparatus of choice for all first alarm responses to a structure fire.
The tools that fill its various compartments are primarily focused on dealing with firefighting situations.
A Patrol vehicle (or “Type 3 Apparatus” in the particular case of Los Altos Hills) is similar in some respects to an engine in that it carries water (but a lesser amount – typically 300 gallons) and has the ability to pump. But this engine is designed to be highly mobile and maneuverable so that it can traverse rough terrain while simultaneously pumping – such as may be necessary to deal with a brush fire. It can move slowly to “follow” as hoses are dragged progressively along the “front” of a fire as it is repelled.
This is the Type 3 vehicle we have at the El Monte Station. Besides the four-wheel drive and the high clearance, notice how this vehicle is much more maneuverable than a bigger engine in terms of its size and turning circle.
As its name implies, this type of vehicle is aimed to a large extent at rescue operations of various kinds, although also functioning as an engine. In this sense it really has a dual role where the difference from an “pure” engine lies with the types of extra equipment it carries in addition to its basic engine duties.
The rescue aspect might include extricating victims from vehicle accidents or collapsed buildings, medical emergencies of various kinds, rescue of people who find themselves injured and/or trapped such as when a vehicle rolls off the road and down a steep ravine. This vehicle carries a wide assortment of power tools and medical kits, each custom designed to tackle a particular kind of situation.
This is the Rescue based at the El Monte Station. Notice its similarity in outward appearance to the Engine shown on this page.
In addition to firefighting, it carries a different and extensive collection of rescue and life-saving tools in its various compartments. This makes it the apparatus of choice to respond to vehicle accidents and other extrication or medical emergencies.
Pictured above is our newest “Rescue” apparatus, acquired in 2008 to replace its predecessor which was retired into reserve status. The picture shows a feature of the new engine – a roof-mounted command light with 9000 watts of lighting power to handle lighting of emergency situations. Normally the mast is folded, but a remote control can be used to extend the mast and direct the light where needed.
Equipment contained in the new engine:
- 2007 Kovatch Mobile Equipment Custom Rescue Pumper
- 4-door cab
- 455 HP 6 cylinder turbo charged Detroit Diesel Engine
- Electronically controlled six speed Allison Transmission
- 500 gallon water tank
- 1250 GPM Hale fire pump
- 25 gallon Class A foam (1% expands to 100%)
- Electrically operated remote-controlled roof mounted
deck gun (water cannon) — able to flow 1250 GPM
- 20,000 watt hydraulic-driven generator for lighting
- Roof-mounted command light with six 1500 watt quartz halogen lights
- Extensive compartmentation to carry a wide selection of extraction tools and medical supplies
- Rear-mounted camera system with audio for ease of maneuvering