fires and firefighters

a German firetruck

Why are American fire trucks so big? I don’t recall who asked the question, but I’ve been repeating it like a tick for at least 6 months. Exhibit A above, a German firetruck. This isn’t a small vehicle, but it makes American fire trucks look like American pickup trucks and SUVs, by which I mean big. Why? I’m sure there’s much about the subject I don’t understand, but I do have a notion that the market for firetrucks probably responds to more than the functional demands of putting out fires.

Exhibit B above, a chart linked on Andrew Sullivan’s blog (which Rachel forwarded after listening to six months of my paranoid speculation about about lock-in in the American market for firetrucks). Alex Tabarrok at Marginal Revolution offers a very different picture of institutional change in American firefighting, but both examples share a central observation. Witnessing local emergency response in the United States, one often wonders: do the people and property they are going to save really need all of that stuff?

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2 thoughts on “fires and firefighters

  1. Brent notes that firemen not only fight fires in America but they are also our first respnders. So while the number of fires fought has gone down, the number of insidents they have to respond to has increased…

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