Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)
We've compiled a list of the more regular questions and answers we often hear... but if you have others, please Contact Us -- we'll answer them, and add them to the list to share with others.
Every event varies in the flavor and pace of attention spans, but generally, we first get your guests in uniform with badge stickers, and provide them a chance to look around the outside of the truck, ask questions about the truck, equipment or tools on board. From there, we open the doors for a crawl-around the inside and outside of the truck, and for those trucks with wearable gear, opening up the cabinets to have gear (jackets, helmets, etc.) to try on and play with. The fire engine arrives with a full tank of water as well (except in VERY rare cases), and the water is included and at your disposal as well, either from a standard firefighting nozzle, or if it's crazy hot and everyone wants to play, we also have a "water wall" nozzle that puts out a wall of water 20 feet high and 40 feet wide.
You may have specific requests or ideas of things you'd like to see us do, and we are always open to discuss how we can work your ideas into the event. (As a rule, we'll entertain all reasonable requests, providing they can be accomplished in a manner that is safe for everyone involved.)
About the only thing that does NOT fall into the safe/legal/available option is rides, as noted in more detail below within the On the Big (Event) Day section.
This one is really a two part question: The first part is your preference -- do you want us to arrive before, during, or after your guests have arrived? If you're going all out with a fire themed birthday, for example, you may want your guests to all arrive, have them with fire hats on, and then be surprised when the truck arrives. (We've done birthdays where we are the first to arrive, mixed in with the guests arrival, and arrived after, and all were equally successful, so it all depends on the mood you're trying to set.)
The second part is a matter of age of your guests. With younger guests, the attention span tends to fade faster than older guests. For events for a guest of honor in the age 3-5 range, our experience has shown their involvement fades in the 60-90 minute range. Events for older guests of honor may last longer, but by the two hour mark, even the most fascinated of children begin to check out in pursuit of other activities. (You know your child and audience better, of course, so guidelines may not reflect their interest in fire-related things, and it's possible no time limit will ever be sufficient to satisfy their curiosities.)
The time you pay for is the time we are at your event -- travel time is on us. (If you are outside of the truck's home town, then we do pass along the fuel charges to travel to your event and back to the station, but there is no additional charge for our time behind the wheel traveling to your event.)
Very few homes have a driveway that is long enough to accommodate about a 30 foot long truck -- and that's okay. We generally park in the street outside of your home, marking the area with orange cones to both have an outer limit for guests walking around the vehicle, as well as a warning to passing vehicle traffic. (We also will help supervise guests on the traffic side as needed, based on the street and where we've parked.)
If the event is off-street or otherwise away from traffic, the trucks will fit most any place a vehicle is permitted. The trucks are larger than the typical family car, but are not nearly as troublesome to park and situate as you may think. (Keep in mind that residential areas and public places are all designed with access in mind for emergency vehicles, and our trucks are within those design considerations.)
This is not a problem for us (as long as we have space to park), but may require a bit of leg-work as you plan your event. Depending on the property owner or park district, they may have additional requirements for your event being held on their facility, or may not allow large vehicles to be present at all. We will do our best to help you meet any requirements the property owner(s) may present.)
Easy -- Contact Us! You will first speak with Dispatch, and they will gather the details of your requirements, and can set up the event right then and there (date, times, location, truck(s)), or if you prefer, Dispatch can put you in contact with the Station Manager that will be responding to your event.
In rare occasions, a station Manager may also decline an event due to travel time and distance. (When this does occur, it's often due to the travel time being far greater than the event time, such as needing to travel 4+ hours roundtrip for an hour-ish long event.)
The individual Station Manager makes the final decision on accepting a reservation, which includes having unavailability "black out" days that may not appear on the calendar. (Family or work obligations may prevent a location from being available, though unknown to Dispatch in advance.) If another date or Station can support your event, Dispatch will review with you those options as well, as they may apply.
A 50% deposit is required to secure your date, time, a truck and driver. Some locations prefer the balance of payment a few days -- to keep the visit focused on the guest of honor and guests -- and others find it easier to settle up before departing. The Dispatcher will provide specific details based on the Station providing the truck to your event.
We despise no-prices-listed businesses of any type; it always feel like quotes are based on mood or what they feel they can get you to pay. We don't roll that way before we roll your way. Instead, all of our prices are up for the world to see, and don't change based on the time of day, the weather, or what ZIP code you call home. The only thing that does change is the fuel surcharge (more on that below).
For stations whom we accept payments for currently, their prices are listed by their station name found on this page.
We "get" that stuff happens, especially with kids. While each Station is slightly different, those we dispatch for directly have a no cancelation penalty, providing you give us enough notice to cancel the driver before he or she starts driving. (If we're already on the road, we will refund the amount paid, less the fuel surcharge and a $50 fee to cover part of the driver's payroll for the visit.)
The fuel surcharges are an unfortunate result of diesel fuel pricing -- and the disappointing reality that the trucks average about five miles to the gallon. For any event outside of our home town, we found it's both necessary to pass along the fuel cost, and more fair to charge it on a actual distance from us-to-you (based on ZIP code) versus some arbitrary guess of cost. The current travel costs to your home can be found on the Contact Us page - just plug in your ZIP code and click "Look Up."
On the Big (Event) Day
Like every other fire truck party service in California, we are not licensed, insured nor legally permitted to offer rides -- this falls under the Public Utilities Commission's Passenger Carrier regulations, much like a limo. The PUC ensures operators can provide rides safely, have a CHP inspection, etc. While we know there are others offering this service here in California, we're not comfortable skirting the law, insurance and common sense to offer what we know we can't lawfully provide. (The lone exception in California are those nice folks doing fire engine tours across the Golden Gate in their pretty, vintage Mack fire engine.)
We get wet! Bad weather is the nature of the business when doing anything outdoors, so if the weather isn't favorable, we'll be happy to work with you to reschedule your event (if you wish) -- but we never cancel because of a little rain. Fire engines still go to fires when it rains, and no reason they can't still go to a party!
In order for us to join your event, we'll need a place to park. Each truck is about 30 feet in length. Parallel parking a fire engine is a bit trickier than a Honda, so we seek to have access to the curb or sidewalk area whenever possible. (This also gives you and us plenty of space for your event guests to walk up to the fire truck without being exposed to traffic hazards.) If getting into a space may be tricky, we recommend a minimum of 50 feet be set aside for the truck.
We request and encourage moms and dads to hang outside with the kids and the truck, both (a) we've found our younger guests tend to interact more with the truck knowing the comfort of mom 'n dad are nearby, and (b) to help keep an eye on the little ones as they play. (Our host/driver will do what he or she can to supervise the activities with our trucks, but as a single person crew, they can only see so much at once.)
While we take every effort to keep the trucks clean, they are still trucks, sometimes traveling a good distance to your event, so a few suggestions to minimize the muck include:
• Guests-of-Honor and event guests should probably keep their Sunday best at home, and wear comfortable, easy-to-wash clothing.
• Some of the trucks also have areas to climb up, over and along, so shoes that will protect feet and not get caught in ladder rungs or steps are strongly recommended.
• If you know your daughter is a climber, she may be best suited in shorts or long pants; skirts and summer dresses have more fabric areas to get caught between the various tidbits of the truck.
... and never a bad suggestion, but even a better after playing with the trucks and gear AND before cake: handi-wipes or a proper hand-washing. It also keeps your little adventurers from wiping their hands on their clothes, which may be less forgiving about getting dirty and grime out later.
We love to talk about everything the specific truck can do, and even about what functions other types of fire apparatus can offer -- just let us know in advance to ensure the host/driver can plan on speaking (versus our more typical chat and help with gear). As you'd expect, we are not permitted to hook up to fire hydrants and "flow" water -- these are for emergencies, y'know.
If you have specific questions or event ideas, please Contact Us to discuss what options may be available to you for your event and at your selected location.
Upon request, we *may* be able to arrange this, but the gear does limit mobility, and may not be safe to do so for our drivers. (And practically speaking, the authentic firefighting gear we carry to share with event-goers doesn't always match the driver... and to be brutally honest, some of us don't fit into the gear we bought some years ago.)
Other Random Bits
Absolutely! And if you also running a similar business and would like to be listed on our Other Fire Truck Sites list -- or better yet, join us -- just email us with your link information (our information is in the Contact Us page).
Okay, yes, the "for hire" is something of an uncommon term in the United States when you compare it to something that's available for rent. In our case, you aren't renting a fire vehicle, you're hiring the vehicle AND crew member(s). (We actually do not rent our vehicles without a driver for a number of reasons, the least of which is we're not Avis.)
Over time, some locations close up as others open. Changes tend to occur either as family situations change, interests change, things break down, or the simple reality of partying every weekend with someone else's family can take its toll on one's own home life. We've had a few Stations relocate or simply close, but the remainder are fully committed to providing our services while balancing non-fire truck obligations. And after 10+ years at this, changes are bound to occur.