The real reason why fire trucks are painted red remains somewhat shrouded in mystery. There are, however, a few competing theories out there, one of which may contain some or most of the truth.
For example, one theory holds that fire trucks are red, because the earliest firedepartments were made up of unpaid volunteers. These volunteers didn’t have much money, and red was the cheapest colorof paint to use, so they painted their trucks red.
A competing theory dates back to the same time when fire departments were composed of unpaid volunteers. According to this other theory, however, there was fierce competition amongst the volunteer brigades of neighboring towns. Because red was the most expensive color of paint, volunteersused red to make their trucks stand out as a source of pride.
Of course, these two theories are related but opposite. Another theory holds that trucks were painted red to make them stand out from all the other vehicles on the road. In the early 1900’s, Ford only offered cars in black, so red fire trucks would be sure to stand out amidst the sea of black vehicleson the road.
Standing out from the crowd is obviously a good quality for a fire truck — or any emergency vehicle — to have. Today, red remains by far the most popular color for fire trucks and a variety of other emergency vehicles. However, you will also see many other colors of fire trucks. For example, it’s not uncommon to see trucks that are white, yellow, blue, orange, green, and even black.
Content for this question contributed by Danny Korol, resident of Southwick, Hampden County, Massachusetts, USA