Firefighting Operations Truck

Why are firetrucks red?

Have You Ever Wondered…

Why are fire trucks red?

Is red the best color for a fire truck?

What other colors are used for fire trucks today?

Little girl student with a backpack talking on a smartphone outdoors

Did you hear the one about the little girl who called the fire department because her house was on fire? The dispatcher asked how to get to her house, and she replied, “Duh! Big red truck!”

OK.. That’s an old joke, I admit, but it does point out a common fact that many people QUESTION: why are fire trucks red? Anyone who is asked to color a picture of a fire truck will almost certainly choose the color red. Why is that?

One popular answer to why fire trucks are red goes something like this: “Because they have eight wheels and four people on them, and four plus eight makes twelve, and there are twelve inches in a foot, and one foot is a ruler, and Queen Elizabeth was a ruler, and Queen Elizabeth was also a ship, and the ship sailed the seas, and there were fish in the seas, and fish have fins, and the Finns fought the Russians, and the Russians are red, and fire trucks are always “Russian” around, so that’s why fire trucks are red!”

firefighter runs

 That’s obviously just a joke with questionable logic. The real explanation for why fire trucks are red is still somewhat a mystery.

There are, however, a few competing ideas, one of which might hold most or perhaps all of the truth.

red paint on paper and paint brush on white paper

For instance, according to one theory, the color of fire trucks is red because unpaid volunteers made up the first fire departments. These volunteers had a low funds, and red paint was the cheapest color to use, so they painted their fire trucks that color.

A competing theory dates back to the same time when fire departments were composed of unpaid volunteers.  The volunteer brigades from nearby towns, however, were in fierce competition, according to this other theory.

Volunteers used red to make their fire trucks stand out as a source of pride because it was the most expensive color of paint.

Of course, these two theories are related but opposite. According to a different story, fire trucks were painted red to help them stand out from other cars on the road. Ford only made black cars in the early 1900s, so red fire trucks would stand out in the sea of black cars on the road.

It goes without saying that a fire truck, or any emergency vehicle, should stand out from the crowd. But does red really shine out the most, especially at night?  Experts would say, “No!” Studies have revealed that after dark, yellow or lime green is more visible than red.

Today, red remains by far the most popular color for fire trucks and a variety of other emergency vehicles.  There are other other colors of fire trucks, though. For example, it’s not uncommon to see fire trucks that are white, yellow, blue, orange, green, and even black


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