Does anyone know why most fire trucks from the 1920`s to 1950`s or so had open cab`s?

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Simplicity, ease of entry and exit, full view of the fire scene as you arrived...
Because they weren't sissies back then, afraid of wind and rain or falling out when going around a turn. Who needed roofs and SCBA's....wimps today.....(in my best crotchitity old man voice)
Well, back then, the emphasis was on urgency, cutting precious seconds off your response time. The rig rolled and you'd better jump on and hold on tight until you got there. Arriving and putting water on the fire was the priority, taking a 'back seat' to safety. You were starting to dismount the apparatus before it came to a stop, moving towards putting the fire out.
No doors to slow you down, no seat belts to impede your progress, no roof to interfere with your view of what you had to contend with. Speed and efficiency was number one. Seconds counted.
Firefighter injury and even death, was almost regarded as collateral damage, the price of doing business in a dangerous environment.
Most of the early fire apparatus had open cabs because most trucks had open cabs when motorized fire apparatus were invented.

Particularly in the big cities, the open cabs were maintained as a way for the officer to be able to size up fires on the upper floors of tall buildings while the rig was still rolling in. This could be as simple as being able to tell exactly what building was on fire. When you have several tall buildings sitting shoulder-to-shoulder, being able to look up and see which one is smoking saved a lot of time and prevented the need to reposition.

Also remember that most fires were reported by pulling a street box, so the rigs responded to the box, then had to look around for the fire location.

Closed cabs became the norm in the 1960's and 1970's when firefighters became targets of social unrest. It is simply too easy to chuck a brick into an open cab. Lots of apparatus had homemade roof installations during this time. With the wisespread use of the telephone and E-911 systems, street boxes mostly disappeared, and it became easier to go directly to the burning building.
This is what I was always told. Open cabs started to disappear with the riots of the 60's.
We had a crown engine much like this. After market top added. Didn't keep the rain out let me tell you.

How about up to that point, that is how things have always been done?
Cape Cod FD has some excellent open-cab Mack photos, including an AC model from the 1920's.

A nice open cab C-Model Mack from Harrisburg is here. I used to drive one almost identical to this.
That one had a roll-up rag-top over the driver and officer seats like the Lakehurst engine in the 3rd photo from the top.

I also formerly operated in a 1947 ALF 700 series open cab with the pump panel on the curb side. Several good photos of open cab-ALFs are here.

Here is a link to many good photos of open-cab apparatus from the early days to the 1960's. We had a 1964 open-cab Seagrave at Chattanooga when I worked there in the 1980's.

Cincinnati's 1953 Seagrave Truck 14 is halfway down this page.
one of the first truck i ever drove was an open cab 1957 Ward Lafrance floodlight truck. back in 197??oh forget that please-LOL loved that truck, didnt love the double clutching
Mostly so the officer could look for the best place to spot the apparatus.
When I first started riding in 1968 mostly all apparatus didn't have roofs. I never heard anyone ask why, it was just that way. Here is my list, but no validity to it.
1. It looks cool
2. Great for parades
3. We have helmets, who needs a roof
4. Visibility sounds good, but I doubt it was the reason
5. Less weight, more speed
They were very cold in the winter months and very wet in the rain. The 60's riots changed this and now everything has a roof.
I think one of the biggest things was (backed up by my Father, who was on the National Board of Underwriters years ago) COST. With our current economy, who knows; we may see a return!
Much as I hate to dispel a lot of the above, and while there is a grain of truth in some of the statements made previously, the main reason has to do with the fact that the rigs were kept in heated stations and the state of the art in automotive heaters/defrosters was not very good. Many years went by before thermostats were in routine use and even in closed cab vehicles the driver's compartment was drafty, leaked air, uninsulated, etc. coupled with the fact (and I know some of you viewing this have operated rigs with them) for a long time windshield wipers operated by vacuum rather than an electric motor- these were not very effective if you were on anything rather than level ground because a gasoline engine produces less vacuum under load and more when running against compression (like down a hill, relying on the engine to slow you down); uphill they would slow to a stop as the engine labored more and downhill they would actually go so fast that they barely wiped the rain off. The bottom line is that it was advantageous to be able to look over the windshield at times as it may very well be frozen over, covered in rain, etc. It was not uncommon in open cab trucks to have windshield wipers on both sides (front and back, not left and right) of a windshield. If you consider all of the above well into the 1960s and 1970s, when cabs were a lot better, they still were pretty drafty, uninsulated and had the typical old heater box arrangement with flex hoses going up to the vents in front of the windshield and little doors you would open or close to allow heat into the cab otherwise- not the best setting to keep windshields from fogging over, particularly when after a call you get three or four wet firefighters in the cab after a fire. Nowadays we have tight cabs, great heaters and A/C and still have to add accessory fans to keep the windshield clear because of the "wet gear" factor. Were they quicker, offer unimpeded scene view, etc? Sure...but the primary reasons were more linked to practicality.

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