Runaway fire engine: How to avoid endangering firefighters, civilians

Develop a routine of putting the fire truck in neutral, applying the brakes, then putting the pump in gear

A released video shows a fire engine running away without a driver behind the wheel. While it may seem comical at first watch, when you watch it again and again, you will hopefully realize the seriousness of this incident.

While fireground safety is always a concern for every firefighter and incident commander, we really don’t think or consider the danger of a runaway engine – because it’s not supposed to be a part of our consideration.

When we look at risk management, we are looking to put in place measures that will control the hazards or risks that we identify – usually the ones that we cannot control from the very start. When arriving on scene of an incident, there are factors, hazards and risks that we can control immediately, such as ensuring the engine is stopped and the parking brake is applied.

A runaway apparatus adds a new element to the fireground

In this case, the engine was on loan to this department, so the crew was unfamiliar with the apparatus. Having said that, all fire trucks are equipped with a transmission and parking brakes; applying them is the same for all trucks, except for where the devices will be located.

So, with this incident, it appears that the engine came to a stop, the pump engaged and then when the driver throttled up the engine to work the pump, the truck then took off at a good clip.


The runaway engine then endangers other personnel working on the scene of a car fire. The IC did appear to be standing near the front of the truck, because as it started to move, he was forced to move out of the way, along with another person who is not identifiable.

Thankfully, the other two firefighters were not near the truck, as some fire trucks have bumper lines that are used for vehicle fires, and if there was one or two of them, they would have been run over by the truck. The bystanders are also put at risk by this apparatus – depending upon where they are standing or gathered, they could be right in the path of the runaway truck.

The runaway truck also endangers the other personnel by injecting new hazards such as downed lines, adding another element to the fireground.

The other factor to consider is the truck itself; depending upon the extent of the damage, how it ended up when it finally came to a complete stop (with power lines on top of it or not) and where the truck is now positioned in relation to the incident, it may be unusable. So, depending upon the situation, it may get worse because the engine is no longer able to help mitigate the original situation.

The lesson here is to make sure you develop a routine of putting the truck in neutral, applying the brakes, then putting the pump in gear, and – depending upon the type of truck you have – re-engage the transmission into drive.

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