Can You Answer All of These Questions a Firefighter Should Know?

By: Ian Fortey
Image: Krista Long/Moment/gettyimages

About This Quiz

When literally tens of millions of calls being placed to fire departments across the country every year, being a firefighter is far and away one of the most stressful jobs a person can have.  Day in and day out, you're putting your life on the line to save and protect others from one of the most dangerous forces in the world.  

Even as technology advances to make things easier and more convenient, fire is as wild and unpredictable as ever.  Controlling it and understanding it takes time, effort and skill ... the kind of skill a firefighter must develop through rigorous training an practice. 

Firefighters have to understand so many things to do their jobs properly. They have to be aware of how materials respond to fire, how to best control them, when to fall back and when to rush in.  They need basic skills like math and communications, they need training on an endless supply of equipment, and they should know some of the history of where they came from and why they do what they do.  It's a lot to take in.  If you think you have what it takes to go toe-to-toe with a firefighter, at least in terms of knowledge, then get your gear on and take our quiz! 

What is someone referring to when they talk about "firefighting apparatus?"

Because there are so many kinds of trucks, engines and other vehicles, firefighters will refer to them all collectively as apparatus so there's no confusion. In layman's terms, people will often call any vehicle a fire truck or a fire engine, but those terms are not interchangeable.

Different apparatus have different names and different jobs. What is the purpose of a fire engine?

Fire engines are sometimes called pumpers, and they are the trucks that will carry tools and hoses and specifically are there to pump water. Engines will have an on-board tank and also the ability to pump water from an outside source. they may have ladders, but they will be smaller.

What does NFPA stand for?

The National Fire Protection Association is the body that sets national standards for what firefighters are supposed to be doing and how they are doing it. All firefighting equipment, for instance, must meet NFPA regulations.

According to NFPA standards, how many categories of fire apparatus are there?

NFPA standards describe seven types of fire apparatus which include Pumper Fire Apparatus, Initial Attack Apparatus, Mobile Water Supply Apparatus, Aerial Apparatus, Quint Fire Apparatus, Special Service fire apparatus and Mobile Foam fire apparatus.

What kind of fire is classified as a Class K fire?

Class K fires are fires caused by cooking oils and fats. There is a classification for fires caused by flammable liquids, but because cooking oil fires were so common and presented unique differences and challenges, they were given their own separate classification.

What is the classification for a fire that's fueled by flammable metals?

Class D fires are flammable metal fires and require special methods for fighting. Water should not be used to handle a Class D fire, as it's possible the addition of water could react with metals and make the situation even worse.

What class of fire is most commonly fought by using just water to suppress the flames?

Class A fires are what you might call "normal" fires. They're fueled by combustible materials such as wood, paper or trash and include things like house fires. Common suppression techniques are usually effective in fighting these fires.

The name FM-200 doesn't tell you much about this product that firefighters use. What is it?

FM-200 is a halocarbon chemical fire suppressant. It's also known by the incredibly unwieldy name "1,1,1,2,3,3,3-Heptafluoropropane" and is useful for fighting fires that can't be exposed to water for safety reasons

What's the name of the tool a firefighter might use to break a window or to probe walls and ceilings for hidden fires?

Pike poles have been in use for many years in firefighting. Essentially just a long pole with a spiked hook on the end, they were once useful for tearing walls down to prevent the spread of fire, and are still helpful in pulling items out from intense heat or ventilating an area.

How old are the majority of firefighters in America as of 2017 statistics from the NFPA?

27% of all firefighters are between 30 and 39 making them the majority in America. 24% are between 40 and 49 while 21% fall between the ages of 20 and 29. 3% of firefighters are aged 16 to 19 and 8% are over the age of 60.

What percentage of firefighters in America are women?

Only 7.3% of firefighters working in America as of 2017 were women. That works out to about 84,700 women across the country working as firefighters. In a city like New York with just over 11,000 firefighters, that would make around 800 women.

When was the first official fire department founded in Boston?

America's first official fire department was founded January 27, 1678, in Boston. This was six years after the governor took the time to ban people from having wooden chimneys and thatched roofs which were incredible fire hazards.

What do you call the large water cannon affixed on top of some pumper trucks?

The deluge gun is known as a deck gun, a fire monitor and even a master stream. Firefighting boats can also have these impressive cannons mounted on them and they can fire upward of 1,000 to 2,000 gallons of water per minute.

What is the purpose of a PASS device?

The PASS device, or personal alert safety system, is designed to be an emergency distress device. A firefighter in trouble can set off the alarm manually, or if they stop moving for more than 30 seconds the device will sound to alert others.

Airport crash tenders are important for firefighting. What are they?

An airport crash tender is a specific fire apparatus meant to deal with the unique challenges of airport fires. They're fast, they have a large water capacity and they can handle rougher terrain if they need to leave the runway.

What kind of a hose would you attach to the pumper to fight a house fire?

An attack hose is the kind of hose you'll want to use to take on a fire. They can come in a range of sizes, but an attack hose for fighting a standard house fire will likely be about 1.5" in diameter.

Sometimes a firefighter may need to use a K-Tool. What is it for?

A K-tool is a very simple looking piece of equipment meant to pop a cylinder lock out of a door. A piece of metal with a K-shaped wedge is forced down over the lock, then the firefighter can use a prying tool to yank the entire lock right out of the door.

What do you call it when a fire has burned out most of the oxygen in a space and then oxygen is explosively reintroduced?

Backdraft can be extremely dangerous and is something firefighters need to be aware of at all times. When a fire is still burning but has used up all the oxygen in a room, reintroducing oxygen by opening a door or window can cause all the fuel in a room to reignite and explode.

Firefighters are not permitted to enter a dangerous location alone. What's the term to describe how they're supposed to handle things?

Two-in two-out is essentially just a buddy system that firefighters are required to adhere to. Two firefighters should enter a dangerous situation together so that no one is ever alone while two more stay out in case the first two need help.

Fire helmets come in different colors for different ranks. Who would wear a white helmet?

A fire chief or similar high-ranking officer will be wearing the white helmet at the scene of a fire while most firefighters will wear yellow or black helmets. The reason a high-ranking officer is in a different-colored helmet is to make them easier to spot in a crowd.

What are the three elements in the fire triangle?

For a fire to happen, it needs all three elements of the fire triangles - heat, fuel and an oxidizing agent. The agent is usually oxygen and the fuel could be anything from gasoline to paper to a can or garbage. Once heat is added, the conditions are primed for a fire to start.

Which of these would not be on a firefighter physical ability test?

You don't have to be tested on your ability to sprint as a firefighter, but there are many other physical requirements including raising ladders, forcing your way into a locked building, carrying and dragging hoses and more.

How many classifications of buildings are there based on the fire-resistance of their construction materials?

There are 5 different classifications for buildings based on what the building is made of and how well it resists fire. This information can be immensely helpful for a firefighter to know since obviously, a building made entirely of wood is more likely to burn than brick

What was the term used to describe the old-school firefighting technique of passing water along a human chain?

Before pumps and trucks existed, the most effective way to fight a fire was by throwing a bucket of water on it. Bucket brigades were chains of people connecting a water source to a fire, passing buckets at a rapid pace along the chain for a constant flow of water.

What does it mean if a fire hose is charged?

A hose needs to be pressurized before it can be used. Once the line is attached to the pump at the engine, it will be pressurized and the line will visibly expand as it fills with water. Once charged, a line is very hard to manage as the pressure can be quite high.

What's the purpose of a hook ladder?

If a firefighter needed to access a window from an alley where a truck couldn't reach, a hook ladder could be hooked onto a windowsill and climbed up. In fact, firefighters could scale an entire building this way dragging the ladder up to each new floor behind them.

How many firefighters were injured in the line of duty back in 2017, according to the NFPA?

There were 55, 835 injuries during the line of duty in 2017 for firefighters. while that number is high, it's down from 62, 085 in 2016 which is certainly some decent progress overall for a very dangerous line of work.

There's a kind of fire truck with a ladder that can reach over 30 stories high. What animal is it named after?

The Bronto Skylift is a pretty rare fire apparatus and would only see use in larger cities. The massive hydraulic ladder rig can reach the top of a skyscraper to evacuate people in an emergency.

What's another term for attacking a fire from the outside only?

Firefighters have the option to take on a fire internally or externally. If the work will solely be done outside, the "surround and drown" technique is another name for simply attacking the fire from all sides and potentially from above with water.

What exactly is a quint?

A quint is another name for a vehicle that combines the functions of both a fire truck and a fire engine. The name refers to the fact it has 5 functions - aerial device, ground ladders, pump, fire hose and water tank.

According to NFPA statistics, how many calls were made to fire departments in America in 2016?

According to the NFPA, 35,320,000 calls were placed to fire departments in 2016. 1.3 million were for fires while over 22 million required medical assistance. Compare that to 1980, when there were just over 10 million calls but 3 million fires.

What's another name for a firefighter trained to fight remote forest fires?

Smokejumpers do the incredibly dangerous job of parachuting into remote wilderness areas where typical firefighting equipment can't reach to fight a fire. This can obviously be a very dangerous job, and it requires extensive training.

Three in five fire deaths occur in homes due to what?

40% of fire deaths occur in homes that have no smoke alarm while another 17% occur in homes that have smoke alarms that simply aren't working. The death rates in homes with no working smoke alarms are more than twice as high as those with working smoke alarms.

How often do fire departments in America respond to a call?

According to NFPA stats, a call is responded to every 24 seconds somewhere in America. Of the 1.3 million fires responded to in 2017, 72% of them were house fires. Those resulted in about 3,400 deaths.

What was the total cost of fires in the US in 2014?

According to the NFPA, the cost of fires in the US was $328.5 billion in 2014 if you take into account both expenditures in dealing with the fire and the loss due to the destruction the fires caused. That's 1.9% of America's gross domestic product!

About HowStuffWorks Play

How much do you know about dinosaurs? What is an octane rating? And how do you use a proper noun? Lucky for you, HowStuffWorks Play is here to help. Our award-winning website offers reliable, easy-to-understand explanations about how the world works. From fun quizzes that bring joy to your day, to compelling photography and fascinating lists, HowStuffWorks Play offers something for everyone. Sometimes we explain how stuff works, other times, we ask you, but we’re always exploring in the name of fun! Because learning is fun, so stick with us!

Explore More Quizzes