Different Fire Engines

We could hear sirens. These days we hear sirens multiple times a day, every day. With the increase in corona virus cases in Mumbai, they’re usually ambulances. A few days ago, it was a bit different. The sirens were sounding with a regularity that was disturbing. From the window, we could see people running out of the building across the road. There was panic all around. There were a couple of fire engines.

fire engines at Sierra Towers

Soon there were many more fire vehicles and firemen. They were accessing the building from the other end as well, so there would have been more fire engines on that side. We found out that there was a raging fire in one of the flats, but it was in the middle of the compound. There was nothing visible (other than the fire engines) that would make us say there was a fire. Videos were doing the rounds on our neighbourhood Whatsapp groups, where we could see the orange flames and thick black smoke. We later got to know that the flat was gutted, but the fire didn’t spread and importantly, no one was injured.

fire tanker
Fireman, your partner for saving life and property
MFB fire engines
Mumbai Fire Brigade vehicles in Kandivali East – SUV, Tanker, Tanker with Aerial Ladder, Hydraulic Turntable Bronto Ladder Truck (19th June 2020)

The Mumbai Fire Brigade uses a variety of fire-fighting vehicles. The trucks that are currently in use, are manufactured by MAN, Tata, Volvo and Mercedes-Benz. The Tankers have capacity of 9,000 to 18,000 litres. The Turntable Bronto Ladder Truck can reach as high as 33 floors!


In Mumbai, every fire engine has a crew of seven firefighters, including the driver who operates the equipment. It must be an exciting life, but exhausting, challenging and risky at times like these.


This incident brought to mind the other fire engines we’d seen in the past.



This is a Dennis Fire Engine that we saw at an exhibition of vintage cars at Bangalore Club in Jan 2009. The lone fire engine was a major attraction, standing out among the cars. Quite appropriately, it was strategically placed near the entrance gate of the club. A board, hung on the fire engine, carried some information about it.

Year of manufacture: 1925
Engine: 4 cylinder, 30.35 HP
RTO Registration: MYD 1504

Dennis Fire Engine 1925 front

Dennis Brothers was a manufacturer of vehicles. It started with bicycles in 1895 and then moved on to cars and heavy vehicles – lorries, buses, garbage trucks, fire engines. Based in Guildford in Surrey, England, it was known for its made-to-order vehicles, always stronger than mass produced ones made by others.

Dennis began making fire engines in 1908. Its fire engine was unique in that it was fitted with a centrifugal pump or turbine rather than a piston pump used by other fire engine manufacturers. As per a note on Wikipedia, this was more complex to build than the long-established piston pumps, but had advantages in operation. Where water was supplied under pressure from a hydrant, rather than by suction from a pond, this additional pressure was boosted through the centrifugal pump, whereas a piston pump would have throttled it. Piston pumps also gave a pulsating outlet pressure which required an air-filled receiver to even this out.

This fire engine was ordered by the Maharaja of Mysore as the first fire-fighting vehicle in the kingdom. It was imported from England into India via Karachi in 1925. It has a water tank of 200 litre capacity and like other pumpers, is capable of sucking water from an outside source. It runs on petrol unlike present-day fire engines, with mileage of roughly 0.5 km/litre. It seems that in those days, it guzzled 1000 litres to come from the port of Madras to Mysore.

The Maharaja subsequently gifted the fire engine to the Mysore State fire force, and it served till the 1960s. It is owned by the Karnataka Fire & Emergency Services Department and is still in working condition. As we could see, it is exceptionally well kept – pristine red paint and shiny polished brass trimmings and fittings. It has featured in many vintage car rallies and parades in Bangalore.

One can imagine the clanging bell and the helmeted firemen holding onto the brass railings as the fire engine cruised through the streets of Mysore (and then Bangalore), telling people and other vehicles to get out of the way.


The other fire engine we saw at close quarters was the Rosenbauer Tiger, at the Bangalore airport.

Rosenbauer was established in Linz, Austria, in 1866, as a trading company for the fire department’s loose equipment. It gradually expanded to manufacturing fire pumps, and in 1919, it started making fire engines. Dennis Brothers and Rosenbauer would have been competitors at that time. Dennis Brothers closed in 2007, when the last fire engine left the factory. Rosenbauer, on the other hand, has come a long way with presence all over the world, still focused on firefighting equipment and vehicles. It is said to be the No. 1 company in fire and disaster protection.

In April of 2008, we were part of a group that had the opportunity to visit the airport while it was still getting completed. This prized possession was a part of the tour.  We could touch the vehicle and even sit in the front seat. It was massive, with a giant nozzle at its head, and an extendable ladder on top. The tank had separate compartments for water and foam. We got to see a demo of how it squirted the water from the nozzle overhead to douse any fire. It seems that the pressure could be made so high as to be able to cut through the metal of an aircraft if required.

Rosenbauer Tiger1



Driver seat

Rosebaauer front

Fortunately, the Tiger didn’t need to be used for any major incident at Bangalore airport. The airport now has the next generation Rosenbauer Panther (four of them in fact) which has enhanced capabilities vs Tiger.


“Alertness is the key to fire safety. Stay alert. Keep safe.” 

Bangalore Club exhibition catalog (2009)
Article in The Hindu (2011)
Rosenbauer website

Photographs taken by self

One thought on “Different Fire Engines

  1. Sri June 25, 2020 / 8:49 pm

    Informative post, Thanks


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