How to Drive a Fire Engine

by Audrey Esposito

Driving a big, red fire engine is a dream for many children. But the reality is that driving a fire engine is hardly kids' stuff. You need specialized training, licensing and knowledge to first become a firefighter, and then to learn how to drive the fire engine. It may seem easy, but it's hard to make sure the fire engine is helping the public instead of hurting it.

Become a firefighter. Call your local fire department to find out how to start training for this job.

Gain the appropriate license from your state to drive a fire engine. In most states, this license is similar to a truck driver license, and it requires several hours of supervised driving in your fire department before you are let loose on the public.

Learn how to to engineer (pump) the engine. The driver of a fire engine is responsible for working all the levers and buttons that get water from the hydrant, to the engine and to the hoses. This is specialized knowledge that requires months of training as well as good math ability.

Know your engine and its contents. The driver of a fire engine is often called upon to find ladders and other equipment on short notice.

Remember that fire engines are not just big, red trucks. Many carry more than 1,000 gallons of water, and that water makes the engine stop differently compared with a regular vehicle. When the engine stops, the water is still moving, adding to the momentum.

Never back up a fire engine without a spotter (someone who stands behind the engine and tells you when it's safe to back up and when to stop). Many firefighters have been killed by engines backing into them.


  • check In most instances, you must be a firefighter to drive a fire engine. This is for reasons of safety and insurance.

Items you will need

About the Author

Audrey Esposito is a retired firefighter/paramedic in suburban Chicago. She is a hospital paramedic educator and quality coordinator, writing professionally since 1984. Esposito has written for the American Academy of Pediatrics, Illinois Department of Children and Family Services, "Fire Apparatus" magazine, "Fire Chief" magazine and several other publications. She holds a Master of Science in management/organizational behavior from Benedictine University.

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