Why Are Fire Trucks Red? Have You Ever Wondered...

Why Are Fire Trucks Red? Have You Ever Wondered…


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When you think of a fire truck, you can’t imagine it in any other color other than red? But have you ever wondered why the color red is associated with fire trucks? Is it because the color of a flame is red? While there are many theories surrounding it, that is not the reason. If you ask anyone to color a picture of a fire truck, they’ll most likely color it red. Why is that?




While the color red is undoubtedly eye-catching, most people associate fire trucks with sirens and flashing lights.

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Image: Obi

According to automotive experts and historians, there are many theories. One such theory is that fire trucks were first painted red because of early cars. During the 1900’s, Henry Ford suggested the color black for his Model T Ford’s due to the cheap cost and durability of the paint. Since cars were gaining popularity and the numbers steadily increasing, it is said that fire brigades wanted the rigs to stand out. There’s also another theory that fire trucks are red, because the earliest fire departments were made up of unpaid volunteers.

According to this other theory, however, volunteer fire fighters from neighboring towns competed against one another. Since red was the most expensive color during that time period, volunteers used red to make their fire trucks stand out as a source of pride.

Prior to the invention of automobiles, horse-drawn wagons or carriages were utilized to transport fire fighting equipment.

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Before fire trucks became a thing, repurposed wagons from farms were used to transport equipment. One theory is that the color red was painted on their undercarriage because it often hid dirt and debris from the unpaved roads. As time went by and firehouses started upgrading their equipment from wagons to trucks, they adopted their paint scheme, too.

Colors like yellow are more noticeable than red so why aren’t emergency vehicles associated with such colors?

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Image: Kirk Thornton

When it comes to emergency vehicles, it is important that it stands out from the crowd. By doing so, vehicles on the road can easily spot it and make way. But is red the best color to stand out, especially at night? Experts would disagree and according to some studies, yellow or lime green is most easily seen after dark.

Today, red remains by far the most popular color for fire trucks and a variety of other emergency vehicles. At the same time, it’s not uncommon to see fire trucks that are white, yellow, blue, orange, green, and even black. In 2009, a U.S. Fire Administration study concluded that the paint color was not important, rather it was more important that drivers recognize what the vehicle is for.




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