About Words: Service, Service Trucks, Service Companies

Let’s look some uses of the word “service” in the fire service, starting with “Service Company.” 

That’s a descriptor from the Insurance Services Office (ISO), used in their Fire Suppression Rating Schedule.

Service companies operate service trucks (see below) and ISO awards points for specific equipment carried therein. See this page[1] of information.

[1] Link now broken, https://firechief.iso.com/FCWWeb/mitigation/ppc/3000/ppc3005.jsp

Service Trucks

We can safely say that “service company” is derived from “service truck,” a type of fire engine that carries ground ladders and other traditional truck company equipment. But that is neither equipped with a pump nor an aerial device.

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Jeff Harkey photo

Service trucks are also called “service ladders,” “service ladder trucks,” and “city service trucks.”

Wait, what? “City service?” How did that name come about? We blogged on that one before, in this 2010 posting.

In late 19th Century, hook and ladder wagons were built in various sizes. The smallest of these were described as perfect for small communities, such as villages. Or for “village service.” The larger ones were designed for “city service.” Thus they were known as “village ladder trucks” and “city service ladder trucks.”

The descriptor of “city service” continued for decades, and the longer phrase was shortened to “city service truck” and, finally, “service truck.”

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Other Types of Service

The word “service” has other uses in the fire, um, service.

Service call – When firefighters respond to a non-emergency event. Like, say, removing a tree from a road or helping an invalid get back into bed.

Public service – In Raleigh and Wake County, it’s a synonym for telephone. Thus you’ll hear dispatchers saying “let me give you a call on public service.”

Public Service – In North Carolina, it’s also the business name of a natural gas provider. And doubly confusing for those listening to a scanner for the first time. 

Years of Service – Popular discussion topic in firehouses, typically in the context of years, months, and days until retirement.

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