A fire train is a train that is designed to fight fires. Because in many areas along railroads, road access is limited or unavailable, railroads maintain fire trains to respond to fires on or near railroad rights of way.

A fire train in Switzerland.

The primary purpose of a fire train is to protect the railroad's property and right of way. However, when fire trains respond to wildfires near railroads, they allow for firefighters to concentrate their efforts on other portions of a fire.[1]


Early accounts of fire trains date to the beginning of the 20th century. In 1908, a fire train was reported to have saved the village of Long Lake West in the Adirondack Park of New York from being destroyed by a wildfire.[2]


Fire trains are used to respond to fires which are on or near railroad lines. A fire train can carry large quantities of water – BNSF Railway's fire trains have a capacity of over 30,000 gallons of water, compared to a typical fire engine which carries around 500 gallons.[3] A typical fire train will include several tank cars filled with water or firefighting foam, along with water cannons which can spray anywhere from 30 to 150 feet away from the tracks, both to preemptively wet down flammable materials and to suppress fires.[4] Some fire trains are also capable of refilling their water supply from nearby bodies of water by using siphons.[5]

While fire trains are owned by railway companies, not municipal authorities typically responsible for firefighting, railroads often coordinate and work with firefighters, such as by using fire trains' water storage to provide water to firefighters.[6] As the trains include crew accommodations, railroads may also use them to transport firefighters to and from fires, which often occur in rural areas with poor road access.[4]


  1. ^ Matthey, Ryan (2021-07-15). "Dixie Fire gets additional help from firefighting train". KRCR. Retrieved 2021-09-30.
  2. ^ Empire State Forest Products Association (1913). Pamphlets on Forestry in New York. Syracuse, New York. pp. 7, 35.
  3. ^ Ayer, Tammy (September 9, 2020). "Firefighting Train Helps Battle WA Wildfire". www.firehouse.com. Retrieved September 30, 2021.{{cite web}}: CS1 maint: url-status (link)
  4. ^ a b Lada, Brian (August 5, 2021). "Fleet of trains deployed with unique firefighting capability". AccuWeather. Retrieved September 30, 2021.{{cite web}}: CS1 maint: url-status (link)
  5. ^ Kelly, Bruce E. (May 5, 2016). "Fighting fire with fire trains". Railway Age. Retrieved September 30, 2021.{{cite web}}: CS1 maint: url-status (link)
  6. ^ Gabbert, Bill (2019-06-23). "Fire train assists firefighters in Washington". Wildfire Today. Retrieved 2021-09-30.{{cite web}}: CS1 maint: url-status (link)