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In my city, most of, if not all of the fire-trucks that serve city emergencies are red, just like this one:

Regular Fire-truck

But every time that I see an airport emergency that requires the fire-fighters, I see this kind of truck:

Airport Fire-truck

Is there a reason why the airport trucks are yellow-green and not red?

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    $\begingroup$ not all of them $\endgroup$ Commented Aug 11, 2015 at 13:08
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    $\begingroup$ Using the German term "Flughafenfeuerwehr", you get a quite different selection (although the more modern ones tend to have some lime in there). A thing to note are the blue flashing lights, which are standard on (and limited to!) German emergency vehicles. Looking at how German traffic reacts to a simple flashing blue light (and the two-tone "Martinshorn" siren), I always wondered why US emergency vehicles bother with that sound-and-lightshow of theirs. ;-) $\endgroup$
    – DevSolar
    Commented Aug 11, 2015 at 16:26
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    $\begingroup$ @DevSolar You could blast Twisted Sister from our emergency vehicles while running a Pink Floyd laser show on top and nobody would move out of the way, but in true American fashion we operate on the principle that more/bigger/louder is better. (Just for fun try driving past one of our police cruisers at night on an unlit highway when it's got its roof-rack lit. I've had to pull over because their lights completely destroyed my night vision.) $\endgroup$
    – voretaq7
    Commented Aug 11, 2015 at 17:02
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    $\begingroup$ @voretaq7: That's exactly what I wanted to hint at: Less might be more. You simply don't see any blue lights in traffic other than in emergency vehicles, and you don't hear that horn anywhere else either. So if you do see / hear it (which is comparatively rare), you get the heck out of the way because you know it's not some redneck in his pickup or the pizza deliveries, but real emergency. (And boy would you get in trouble if you'd mount blue lights on a pizza taxi...) $\endgroup$
    – DevSolar
    Commented Aug 11, 2015 at 17:11
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    $\begingroup$ @DevSolar Not limited to Germany ^^ "Brandweerauto's" have them in blue as well. Sometimes the cars are yellow/white. $\endgroup$
    – Mast
    Commented Aug 11, 2015 at 17:57

5 Answers 5

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Because yellow/green has been shown to be more visible than red, especially in low light conditions. Yellow/green is also more easily identified by people with colour blindness and other visual disorders.

It's the same reason that safety vests are yellow/green.

This article gives some good references.

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    $\begingroup$ So now the question is, why are regular firetrucks painted red? $\endgroup$ Commented Aug 11, 2015 at 17:22
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    $\begingroup$ @DavidGrinberg Good question, not sure. I've read that it's a mixture of tradition and because people associate red with fire engines. There's psychology in there somewhere I'm sure. $\endgroup$
    – Simon
    Commented Aug 11, 2015 at 17:25
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    $\begingroup$ Regular fire trucks in my city are painted yellow and have been for as long as I can remember. The link talks about people recognizing the color as fire truck too.... the main factor is probably just tradition in whatever locality you're in. $\endgroup$ Commented Aug 11, 2015 at 17:38
  • $\begingroup$ The article you cite seems to be saying that it's the fluorescence that increases visibility, not the green-ness. This is unsurprising, since fluorescent objects are brighter than objects that merely reflect the same colour: fluorescence is the absorption of ultra-violet which is then re-emitted as visible light. $\endgroup$ Commented Aug 11, 2015 at 22:14
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    $\begingroup$ @DavidRicherby Which at night, is mostly missing. Our eyes are very bad at seeing red at night. It's why astronomers use red torches. Yellow/green is the most visible colour in daylight and at night and overall; yellow is the most visible colour to the human eye. usroads.com/journals/aruj/9702/ru970203.htm $\endgroup$
    – Simon
    Commented Aug 11, 2015 at 22:29
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It's because it is the color specified by the Federal Aviation Administration and the only color of firefighting vehicle they will participate in funding.

Advisory Circular AC 150/5210-5D states

Aircraft Rescue and Fire Fighting (ARFF) Vehicles. Yellowish-green is the vehicle color standard.

and

APPLICATION. The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) recommends the guidelines and standards in this Advisory Circular for vehicles operating in the airport AOA. In general, use of this AC is not mandatory. However, use of this AC is mandatory for vehicles funded with federal grant monies through the Airport Improvement Program (AIP) and/or with revenue from the Passenger Facility Charges (PFC) Program. See Grant Assurance No. 34, “Policies, Standards, and Specifications,” and PFC Assurance No. 9, “Standard and Specifications.” [emphasis in original]

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    $\begingroup$ Well, this explains why exactly Oshkosh's and their U.S. competitors' lineups use yellowish-green as default color. Good find! $\endgroup$
    – Alexander
    Commented Aug 13, 2015 at 6:15
  • $\begingroup$ to add acurved ball to the debate.in the uk,I worked as a locomotive driver and anyone trackside has to wear a dayglow orange hi viz jacket. for a trial period,they issued yellow/green jackets,and loco drivers had to give feedback.i can say,at certain light conditions,yellow/green was poor to see compared to dayglow orange,and the uks railways kept that colour. so perhaps fire trucks should be painted orange? $\endgroup$ Commented May 11, 2016 at 22:01
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While Simon has told you about why ALL Fire Engines SHOULD better be yellow/green, not red, he did not tell you why all Airport Fire Trucks you have seen are yellow, and all normal Fire Trucks you have seen are red.

PBS's "Firehouse Primer" on the history of red fire engines:

Before firefighting was a paid profession, most communities were served by volunteer fire departments. These firemen didn't have much money to spend on upkeep, and at the time red was the least expensive color of paint. Red wasn't the only color used, however. Before it merged with the force in Manhattan, the Brooklyn Fire Department painted its apparatus a two-tone green to distinguish them from the red apparatus of the Metropolitan Fire Department. Today, there are still different colored fire engines, but red is the most common color out of tradition.

I don't know whether this is true or just an anecdote, but it's a nice story nevertheless.

While in the US, where fire fighting is a local issue, you will see yellow fire engines with some fire dept's (mostly in rural areas, I guess it's because you have long unlighted stretches of street there), in your native Brazil, the central government has decided to use red for all engines. This is the same in my native Germany, where the color mandated by law for fire trucks used on public streets has changed slightly over the years, from a dark red over a orangeish red to a retroreflecting orange-red. The Swiss, where fire fighting is a local issue as well, have mostly switched to yellow fire engines for visibility reasons. So I guess that you have only been to red-engine territory until now.

For airports, it's a different issue: Unless ordered otherwise, Oshkosh's (the US market leader) airport fire engine lineup is painted green/yellow. Rosenbauer (big player in Europe) on the other hand has a red lineup. While you can order other colors, most customers stick to the default. So my best guess is that you haven't attended any plane evacuations in Europe until now.

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  • $\begingroup$ Ah... so kind of like the color of tractors... John Deer green, Claas lime, Newholland blue... $\endgroup$
    – DevSolar
    Commented Aug 12, 2015 at 12:12
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    $\begingroup$ No, no , no, no. 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! $\endgroup$
    – Simon
    Commented Aug 13, 2015 at 7:21
  • $\begingroup$ @Simon Nice anecdote, but I think you left out half of the story. Did you run into a comment's character limit? $\endgroup$
    – Alexander
    Commented Aug 13, 2015 at 9:10
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Humans evolved in sunlight, which produces mostly yellow-green light frequencies. Therefore, we are most sensitive to the yellowish green part of the visible light spectrum. This is why safety vests are yellow-green. Airport firetrucks and new firetrucks are slowly starting to be painted yellow-green instead of the traditional red. There has been research which shows that firetrucks of this color are less accident prone than red ones. Hope this was helpful (:

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Quoted from https://30yearspanther.rosenbauer.com/en/ The Rosenbauer Group is one of the world’s three largest manufacturers of fire-service vehicles and firefighting equipment, based in Leonding, Austria.

Two colors determine the appearance of the PANTHER in the world.

Fire-fighting vehicles are red, fire-red, which is the exact designation according to RAL 3000 - almost everywhere in the world. It's a different story for airport firefighting vehicles. About half of the FLFs produced by Rosenbauer are painted "yellowish-green". "Yellowish-green" is a slightly fluorescent, yellowish-green hue that does not occur in nature and is therefore particularly well perceived by humans. The special color is recommended in particular by the U.S. Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) for airport fire trucks because, according to studies, it ensures optimum visibility at all times of day and night and in all weather conditions. Even with the classic red, there are color gradations that enable better perception. For example, the PANTHER is now painted not only in fire red, but also in traffic red (RAL 3020), daylight fluorescent red (RAL 3024) or luminous bright red (RAL 3026). Vehicles for airports in Great Britain and Northern Ireland are also provided with the Battenberg pattern in neon yellow/red, reminiscent of a checkerboard, which also serves to increase visibility. The same effect is achieved by (retro)reflective contour and warning markings, which are missing on practically every vehicle.

Color exotics

However, there are also very special customer wishes as to how a PANTHER should look. For example, vehicles at Riyadh Airport and at a Canadian mining company are painted in plain white. The PANTHERs at Newcastle Airport in the UK are painted half white and half purple, because everything there, from the uniforms of the employees to the front of the building, is kept in a uniform corporate design. The PANTHER, which came to acting honors as Sentinel Prime in Transformer 3 "Dark of the Moon" and today watches over a nuclear power plant (red/black), also has two colors. The same color scheme applies to the vehicles at Toronto-Pearson and Seattle-Tacoma airports, while the PANTHERs at Wellington Airport, for example, are painted in yellow/black. Completely black was the prototype of the new PANTHER 6x6 at the Interschutz trade show in 2015.

Ultimately, it is a decision made by the fire departments or airport operators as to which color their airport fire trucks should be. In Europe, reds dominate, as they do in much of Asia and Africa. In North and South America, the Middle East and Australia, vehicles painted in the yellow color spectrum tend to predominate, with exceptions confirming the rule here as well as there. Blockquote Individual grades

While the color of airport fire-fighting vehicles usually has a functional meaning (good visibility in adverse visibility conditions), the logos, lettering, names and symbols applied are more about branding, the individual touch according to the operator's corporate design. Every fire department and every airport (operator) has its own ideas in this regard, and the motifs affixed or painted are correspondingly diverse, ranging from the fire department or city coat of arms to planes taking off (Stuttgart and Berlin airports) and kangaroos (Airservice Australia) in the logo. Probably the most spectacular motifs adorn the vehicles at Warsaw's Chopin Airport: on the 6x6, a knight on his horse jumps out of a ring of fire; on the 8x8, it is the animal that gives the series its name, a black PANTHER.

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