Should a fire department use unmarked fire vehicles verses identified vehicles?


Recent FFN discussion revealed that in some jurisdictions, some fire department vehicles are intentionally, and often times at great expense, disguised to look like an everyday ordinary Joe Citizen vehicle. 

  1. Is being "low-key" of value to the fire service? 
  2. Should we choose generic colored vehicles to blend in with hidden lights and sirens like the law enforcement detectives? 
  3. Or, should we use identified vehicles that have conspicuous markings identifying the vehicle as being a part of the fire department? 
  4. What does your department do?


This takes stealth to new levels... taxi-police car...

This is out-of-the-box thinking I suppose...

There's always the good ol' Ford Crown Vic...

Is it really that "stealth"?



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For OUR SAFETY we are as conspicuous as possible.
Perhaps for fire prevention and public information vehicles but not for emergency response vehicles.
Our "personnel carriers" have full light bars and are fully identified as fire dept. veheicles. I could not imagine needing to go "undercover" in the fire service. Unless you were answering calls outside of your jurisdicition maybe without being called mutual aid. But that would be wrong. 100% of the time wrong. Don't do it. Don't even think about doing it.
Definite need for certain law enforcement vehicles to be "under cover" but FD??? I guess the only time would be if a large city had a Investigation team and then maybe if they were going to arrest an arsonist but at that point they are acting as LEO not firefighters. No I have to say FD needs to be highly visible with as much noise made en route as possible.
I see no valid reason for fire vehicles to be covert...
Perhaps it is something as simple as not wanting to spend the money to paint and mark regular cars/suvs in a way that would drastically reduce their resale value when it is time to get rid of them. Most of those cars are going to be driven by chiefs anyway and they aren't going to have much, if any need, for really high vis vehicles.
Also, perhaps for these vehicles the leadership are driving them home at night and don't really want to advertise the fact that they're doing so to their neighbors. Probably done in full accordance with dept policy, but still could have some public relations negatives.
Around my area only the Battalion Chief's vehicles are marked. All of the Chief's vehicles are unmarked although they're usually black or red. IMHO they should all be marked just like the rest of the Dept's fleet.
I would understand if the dept of a volunteer company gave the cheif an unmarked Tahoe or Suburban, truthfully if they supplied me with an everyday use vehicle i wouldn't want it marked. Just my opinion. The departments around me that have unmarked vehicles are lit up like christmas trees and LOUD.
Non-supression vehicles should be as stealthy as possible. I was talking to a support person a couple of years ago. The number of times Joe citizen pulls in front of her and slams on their brakes to induce a rear-end collision was staggering. An almost daily event.
I think they should be marked. Take the chevron stripes on the rear of trucks. They are highly visible. You take that away and try parking a normal looking apparatus on a roadway, all you are doing is asking for an accident. Having a fire response or department vehicle "blend" into everday life would be a hazard to all of us. We have the reflective lettering, chevron stipes, bright colored vehicles for a reason, so others see us and hopefully us caution when the do. Blending in would be like wear camo hunting. We would blend in so greatly that they would never know we are there and that could lead to many accidents that could be prevented.
I would assume you are referring to duty vehicles and the like. My department just purchased a new OIC vehicle that is painted our colors and clearly marked as a fire department vehicle (whacker light package and all). However, in my area (Central PA), I have been seeing more OIC and Duty vehicles that are unmarked with concealed lighting packages. The only possible reason I can see for this is because departments are to avoid being targeted by someone who is trying to make a quick buck in a car accident. I can completely understand that. However if you are referring to suppression apparatus, then they should absolutely be clearly marked and have consipicuous lighting.

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