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IAFC at 140: From Horse-Powered to Horsepower - What Will Fire Trucks Look Like in 2050?

Return to the July 15, 2013 issue of On Scene

In 1900, the automobile was the star of the 28th annual IAFC meeting.

A majority of the show's agenda was focused on a paper presented, describing one member department's use of the electric automobile combination hose wagon, which reached an unheard of continuous speed of 10 miles per hour.

Another member at the meeting reported on his trip to France, where he witnessed the Paris Fire Brigade's gasoline-powered fire engine.

From that point on, the modern fire apparatus would never be the same.

The topic remained a primary focus of the association in 1908, as gasoline engines were found by IAFC members to be more effective and less expensive than horse-powered vehicles.

In 1910, members addressed the hazards of speeding created by the automobile and agreed that 25 MPH is the maximum that should be employed on city streets.

Within 15 years, horse-powered vehicles disappeared from operations altogether.

Fast-forward to today: how grateful are you that your department doesn't have actual horses to provide horsepower to respond to emergencies? If you were to draw the vehicle of the future for the fire service—say 50 years from now—what would it look like?

Will they look like something out of The Jetsons cartoon, hovering and buzzing about, zapping flames away? Will they all be electric, silent vehicles, more earth-friendly than ever before?

These are all things fire chiefs and great leaders within fire and EMS continue to think about. The IAFC and its components like the Emergency Vehicle Management Section and the Environmental Sustainability Committee will be there to lead the way.

As time passes, technology grows and emergency types change, it's up to our industry to continue to innovate and make sure the tools departments use keep up.

Tim Hopkins is the IAFC's digital media and content manager.

Contribute your stories, photos and memories to this project throughout the year: visit IAFC.org/ShareYourStory.

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