What Is a Brush Truck?

Lori Kilchermann

A brush truck is a small, lightweight vehicle that is commonly four-wheel drive and is able to get off-road and fight fires where larger firefighting equipment cannot go. Commonly mounted on a 1-ton truck chassis, a brush truck has a water tank and a pump as well as other firefighting tools such as axes, chainsaws and rakes. The four-wheel drive truck allows the vehicle to be fitted with over-sized tires to give access to soft or rough terrain. Large, powerful engines give the brush truck power to go up steep hills, crawl over rocks and logs, and provide pressure to the pumps to spray water great distances.

Brush trucks often carry extrication tools, making them important in responses to serious car accidents.
Brush trucks often carry extrication tools, making them important in responses to serious car accidents.

Many rural fire departments began using a brush truck to fight grass fires in areas that the larger fire-fighting equipment could not safely go. Often designed and built by a department using spare equipment or home-built pumping equipment, brush truck design varied greatly from department to department. Typically built on a retired military-type truck, brush trucks could operate as well off-road as on and served on farms and countrysides as well as forests and grass fires.

As the brush truck became more and more publicized, many cities began to investigate the usefulness of a similarly-equipped vehicle. Intended to fight vehicle fires in parking garages and locations a full-sized pumper could not access, the smaller truck has become a very useful tool for the large city as well as the rural volunteer fire departments. Often used as a first responder, the small unit is able to reach many call sites sooner than the large trucks due to its ability to negotiate crowded city streets. Equipped with extrication tools and medical supplies, tools such as the Jaws of LifeĀ® and power saws allow the brush truck to be a very valuable response vehicle and often the difference between life and death for some accident victims.

This small, well-equipped vehicle is not limited for use by fire departments only. Many airports have obtained their own brush truck to better aid accidents, crashes and emergencies away from the runways. For crashes short of the runway or anywhere away from the tarmac, the all-terrain vehicle is better suited to reach the site before its larger cousins. Many of these trucks are also equipped with auxiliary lighting that is useful in illuminating a scene and aiding rescue workers in any scenario.

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