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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 $\endgroup$ – ratchet freak Aug 11 '15 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 Aug 11 '15 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 Aug 11 '15 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 Aug 11 '15 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 Aug 11 '15 at 17:57
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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? $\endgroup$ – David says Reinstate Monica Aug 11 '15 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 Aug 11 '15 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. $\endgroup$ – Adam D. Ruppe Aug 11 '15 at 17:38
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    $\begingroup$ @GabrielBrito Well, I'm lucky enough not to own an iPhone ;), but I assume that it's the same answer that Google Now gives you about 4 wheels and 8 people? $\endgroup$ – Simon Aug 11 '15 at 18:38
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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 Aug 11 '15 at 22:29
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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 Aug 12 '15 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 Aug 13 '15 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 Aug 13 '15 at 9:10
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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 Aug 13 '15 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? $\endgroup$ – keith jackson May 11 '16 at 22:01
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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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