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Fire engine

A fire engine is a specialized vehicle designed to pump water using an on-board engine hooked into the municipal water system or other available water source. They are also known as pumpers as they are used to pump water onto fires. Fire engines are often equipped with an internal water supply. Some carry ladders to reach fires on the higher floors at tall buildings.

According to the Oxford English Dictionary the term fire engine was first used in the 17th century, in exactly the same sense it has now, "a machine for throwing water to extinguish fires".

Firefighters are assigned to engine companies or ladder companies, reflecting very different professional practices. There are also rescue companies with their own distinctive vehicles, including ambulances.

The ladder companies operate fire trucks, that is, fire vehicle that do not have pumps and are therefore not fire engines. Often fire trucks are equipped with long ladders, hydraulic platforms and a variety of other emergency equipment and supplies. The hook-and-ladder is the best-known form of fire truck, but there are also snorkel, or cherry-picker, rigs, floodlight trucks and other specialized units.

Fire trucks and fire engines and other rigs are also used to carry firefighters to fires.

In some communities fire vehicles are used to carry paramedics to medical emergencies. This sometimes puzzles people who see a fire unit race past but do not see any fire.

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