Type to search


Why Are Fire Trucks Red?

Spread the love

If you ask someone to visualize the picture of a fire truck, without any doubt they would think only the big red truck. Though fire trucks of today come in different colors like yellow, green, orange, white and black, the most common color that is used in fire truck is none other than red.So,

Why Are Fire Trucks Red?

When I fired this question on the internet, I have got many interesting theories. Some of them are funny, and some of them had a questionable logic. Although they are not the real reason for the red color of fire trucks, those jokes and theories can make your day. So I have included all those in the later section of this post. Read it and have fun.

Now, let me tell you the real reason for why fire trucks are red.

An emergency vehicle like a fire truck or ambulance should be noticed by everyone so that people can make way to it, so it can reach its destination as quickly as possible. We are all inherently trained to associate red with “danger or emergency”. It is the least scattered, most visible color to the human eye. Not to mention, red captures attention and it is the color of fire and blood that explains why the fire trucks, siren alarm, Fire extinguishers in buildings, stop signal in traffic light are all painted red.

Now you may think why ambulances are painted white. The siren sound on the ambulance will take care of that job!.

What Studies Say ?
According to the studies on human vision, to gain attention towards any particular vehicle, it should has a relatively large size, bright color body and easily recognizable shape(based on whether the viewer saw it previously). Siren or high-frequency sound is yet another attention grabber. It’s needless to say, Fire trucks have a big unique shape and red color body!

why are fire trucks red

There are lots of bright colors but why red is used to indicate the emergency in almost all places? Let’s recall what our old school sciences taught. Remember the rainbow? Which color catches your eyes so apparent? It is red right? It’s all because of the wavelength.

why are fire trucks red

The higher the wavelength(λ), the more visibility.

Color Wavelength (λ)
Red 620–750 nm
Orange 590–620 nm
Yellow 570–590 nm
Green 495–570 nm
Blue 450–495 nm
Indigo 420 – 450 nm
Violet 380–450 nm


The effect of scattering is inversely related to the fourth power of the wavelength of a color.( S∼1/λ4)

As blue has the least wavelength, it scatters the most. On other hand red, having the highest wavelength of all colors, it is scattered the least by particles. Hence, red can be seen even from the long distances, traveling through rain, fog and alike. Technically, it is the reason for why our every vehicle is designed with red back-lights.

Apart from the scientific factors that justify why red is chosen to expose the danger, it has got some psychological basis too.

Psychological Basis

Red is genetically programmed as the color of extremes. We use red to indicate the passionate love, adventure, seduction, violence and anger. It triggers alertness and hunger. Why do you think, the fast food kings like MC Donald and KFC are painted in red?.

So now here is the fun part.

Interesting Unreal theories Just to make you smile

Why are firetrucks red joke

Not so long ago, this popular joke has gone viral in Reddit community. Check it now, if you haven’t heard of yet.

“Because they have eight wheels and four people on them, and four plus eight makes twelve, and there are twelve inches in a foot, and one foot is a ruler, and Queen Elizabeth was a ruler, and Queen Elizabeth was also a ship, and the ship sailed the seas, and there were fish in the seas, and fish have fins, and the Finns fought the Russians, and the Russians are red, and fire trucks are always “Russian” around, so that’s why fire trucks are red!”

Theories Pertaining To The Cost Of Paint

During the 18th century, more than one firefighting companies were operated by unpaid volunteers in America. Since they were nonprofit organizations, they didn’t have much money to spent. In those times, the cost of red paint, when compare to all other colors was very low. So to cut the expenses they painted fire trucks in red.

In contrary to the above, one more theory dates back to the same old days when the fire departments were operated by unpaid volunteers. According to this theory, cost of red paint, was so high when compare to all others and there was a heavy competition among the firefighting companies. So to stand out from the rest by establishing the pride, fire trucks were painted with the most expensive red paint.

These two theories are related and of course contracting. We have no evidence in history to see exactly which color paint has sold high and low. Anyway this cost concept is really childish, forget it.

For Quick Recognition

Another immature theory I came across dates back to 1920’s. According to this theory, Henry Ford wanted to manufacture and sell the most inexpensive cars in only one color: black. He achieved the same, and so every road had got hundreds of black cars moving around. To distinguish the emergency fire engines, fire service department was started to paint their fire trucks in red.

It was even funnier. What do you think?

That’s all folks. Jokes apart, did I made you clear with your query why are fire trucks red? Do you have any other valid theory that justify the association of red with “danger or emergency”? Drop your comments in the comment section.


Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *