From the Big Pumpers to the Pint-Sized Squirters, They’ll Dowse the Blaze.
I’ve never driven a fire truck, but I’ve watched my father-in-law’s one hundred year old Japanese farm house burn down. There were a lot of factors in that disastrous day but I still think that, if we’d had something like this Kei fire truck on the property, we could have stopped the blaze earlier and saved the old place.
The fire started in the main roof at the highest point. I climbed up on the lower roof of the entrance way and broke the windows to get access to the under part of the main roof while my brother-in-law ran to hook up the long fire hose to the main hydrant just down the street. (Even rural Japan is relatively well-equipped with public fire hydrants.) He moved fast, real fast, and was ready to open up on the burning top roof before I could get down from the side roof. No problem, he just blasted me while blasting the burning thatched roof.
But the hose was too short.
By the time the local fire department guys arrived and the fire marshal screamed at me to “Get DOWN off of there, you idiot!” the roof was well and truly ablaze.
Japan is also well-equipped with seriously excellent and brave local part time fire brigades and those guys were amazing. In short order they did a coordinated charge with pikes through the front glass garden doors, entered the living room, ripped down the whole ceiling liner, and had three big gun hoses snaked into the house from their mid-sized pumper trucks. I think there were Isuzu Elf based trucks like this one,
or maybe Hino Dutro based fire trucks like this one.
I honestly don’t remember. Embarrassing for a car guy like me, but you’ll understand that I was a bit distracted at the time.
The guys got those hoses shooting up into the burning attic, but the fire sort of roared back at them out from under the roof and they had to abandon the inside of the house and just soak the whole building from the outside to stop the fire from spreading to the old barn at the back and the storehouse at the front. We lost the house but kept the barn and storehouse.
The Little Guys: Kei Truck Based Fire Trucks
or a Suzuki Carry fire truck:
What’s the point of such a small minitruck based fire truck? How much can a little thing like that pump?
Well, in terms of specs like hose length, ladder length, pump rate, water tank capacity, tools and other things like that, each truck will have its own kit and capacity. You can import these kei fire trucks from Japan yourself (to see how the self-import from Japan system works just click here to have it all explained to you on our website) with various items of fire fighting equipment already attached, or you can import one with most of the kit removed (like the very simple Carry above) and you can then choose the equipment you want to fit the specs of you home country, so the hoses fit the hydrants for sure. (Sounds good, eh?) Of course, used kei truck fire trucks from Japan will usually have the lights, sirens, and loudspeaker still installed, as well as the fire engine red paint.
When you shop with us for a used fire truck, we’ll translate the inspector’s report for you so that you can know in advance not only the mechanical condition of the truck, but also what specific fire fighting gear is already installed on the truck.
So What’s the Benefit of a Small Fire Truck?
What I think is: If, on the day of the fire at our farm, we’d had a small kei truck class fire engine either in our shed or on one of our immediate neighbors’ properties, it would have given us the extra fire hose length and the extra pumping power to get water through the broken window and up under the burning thatch and also we could have put water up on to the high point of the main roof.
Would we have extinguished the fire? I can’t say for sure, but, for sure, we could have slowed the growth of the flames so that, when the pros came, the fire would have been easier for them to limit it to the roof and not have it come roaring down on top of them the way it did when they were in the living room. It was that down blasting flame front that forced the guys to abandon the house.
So for volunteer fire fighters in rural areas, of if you’ve got your own farm, or if you are responsible for a property with multiple buildings, with space between the buildings, but narrow, or limited access, a light, compact, four wheel drive Japanese kei truck based fire truck like a Daihatsu Hi-Jet or a Suzuki Carry fire truck or a Honda Acty fire truck may be just the ticket for you. There are even fire trucks based on my favourite kei truck, the Subaru Sambar. We exported one a few summers ago, in 2020, if I remember correctly. (I’ve written elsewhere on our Japan Car Direct website here about how I love these Sambar trucks, and here about a really clean winner little Sambar that we exported.)
And a good point about buying your own hoses and pump: you can balance your kit to suit the requirements of your property. Do you need fire hose length more than you need ladder length? Do you need pumping power more than you need shovels and picks? Do you need to carry more or larger portable fire extinguishers? Buying a used fire truck with the kit stripped off may be better for you. It’s up to your best judgment.
A little Kei Fire Truck is also so simple that he won’t need much maintenance as he roosts there quietly in your shed, waiting for the big day that all property managers and farmers hope will never come. So we all hope. But that day came for my father-in-law. And if we were to have a farm again, I know I’d buy a little kei fire truck and give him lots of hose length.
The Bigger (But Still Medium Size) Fire Trucks
If a kei truck based unit is too small, there are used fire trucks available from us here in Japan that are based on 4X4 vehicles like the Toyota Land Cruiser
or the Nissan Safari.
These are, of course, based on serious off road, full size machines. They can carry more fire fighting kit than a kei truck based unit, but they are heavier and larger, so they won’t be able to get into those really tight places where only a minitruck fire truck can save your bacon.
If you need something bigger still, you’ll be looking at something like a used fire truck based on an Isuzu Elf or Hino Dutro, like we showed you above. (The fire trucks that came to our rescue and saved the outbuildings when Dad’s farm house met its end.)
These are available with four wheel drive and many have a crew cab so you can pack in your fire fighting team in the one unit. Fire trucks like these are bigger again than the Land Cruiser class units but they are not huge, they have a good turning radius and relatively narrow bodies and, while you will be sacrificing some off road performance, you will be gaining lots of pumping power punch. These midsize fire trucks had no trouble getting through the narrow lanes up to our property, but there was no way a big, full size, big city fire truck could ever have wiggled its way up to the farm on those old countryside paths.
Here at JCD, over the years of exporting good used vehicles from Japan, we have exported a number of fire trucks and, if you want a peek at some of them, just click on our Exported Vehicles pages (here for 2019, here for 2020, here for 2021, 2022 is here, and 2023, still on-going, of course, is here) and scroll down. You’ll see lots of good machines. You’ll find used Toyota Hi-Ace and Toyo-Ace fire trucks, Toyota Dyna fire trucks, Isuzu Elf fire trucks, Datsun Double Cab Pickup firetrucks, Mitsubishi Canter fire trucks, little Suzuki Carry fire trucks, and more.
Fire Truck Charm
Have you ever noticed that fire engines are always super clean and well cared for?
As a kid that was something that always charmed me about fire trucks. Among my most treasured toys I had two top favorites: My yellow Tonka bulldozer (like this one)
and my red “Hook and Ladder” (like this one).
I could take my bulldozer out back into the part of “Mom’s Garden” reserved for me and I could clear land and level it and dig holes for the building of giant sky scrapers, air ports, or rocket bases. All good and dirty fun. But my fire engine? Oh, no, no! He had to stay pristine and clean in case he was called upon in an emergency to evacuate one of the sky scrapers I was planning to build (and never did) after I had cleared and leveled my part of Mom’s garden. (Mom never saw the beauty of those stripped out and cleared spaces in her vegetable patch.)
And this brings me to another important consideration about buying and importing a good used fire truck from Japan, be it kei truck class, like a Daihatsu Hi-Jet, or the larger full size off road car class, like a Land Cruiser, or the bigger Isuzu Elf class machines: These used vehicles are maintained by professionals, kept in spanking good conditions, and have low miles on them. A number of our customers here at Japan Car Direct who have bought used Japanese fire trucks from us have taken the fire fighting kit off the trucks and retrofitted their own equipment on to the vehicles to suit their specific needs. Good idea! A cheap, low miles, well maintained, used car just waiting for me to set him up the way I want. Yep, good road.
Another thing you can do with these low mileage, clean cars is to restore them to look stock and then sell them on at auction. There’s a good little potential business here. Another good idea and more good road!
This is especially so with the minitruck based units, and there are two further good points that come to me when I’m thinking about this. First is the fact that Japanese vehicles are renowned for reliability and low running costs, and this goes double for Japanese Kei vehicles. We’ve written about them in a number of places on our main JCD website. You’ll find our four-part “What is the Best Kei Truck to Export from Japan” series here, here, here, and here; and you’ll find our “Japanese Kei Sports Cars” series here, here, here, and here.
I’ve been quite a fan myself of Kei Cars for a long time and I’ve owned many, test driven many, borrowed many, even sold a few. And, over the years, the guys here at JCD have sold A LOT of Kei vehicles, especially Kei trucks. Our main customers for used Minitrucks, and for good used Japanese vehicles generally, are in the USA, the UK, Canada, Australia, New Zealand, Germany, the United Arab Emirates, and Ireland, and you can find the used car import rules for these countries on our website just by clicking on the country name above.
The second point that comes to me when thinking about importing used Japanese kei vehicles, and used Japanese cars and trucks generally, is the fact that 25 years old is not old for these cars. So, if you are in America and want to take advantage of the easy import rules to the USA for 25-plus year-old used cars from Japan, you’ll be getting a machine with lots of life and years left on him. My wife’s Kei is 28 years old with over 225,000km (140,000 miles) on him and still going strong.)
Older good used Japanese cars are also easy to import to Australia, as well.
Win On All Counts
So with a used fire truck from Japan, be it minitruck class or bigger, you are getting a low mileage, good condition vehicle for reasonable cost that can be perfect for your rural or property management fire fighting needs, that can give you a good base for a retro fit, and that can be listed at auction as a very good deal. You win in every way. You’re a “Winnerman,” to quote our company founder’s favorite word to describe JCD’s customers. (You can catch our interviews with Scott here, here, and here.)
And with these good secondhand fire trucks there’s also what our company President, Matt, here at JCD calls the “novelty factor:” Can you imagine pulling up to a party or get together in this?
Totally unique. Totally Cool. Totally a Chick Magnet. For me it would be like making my childhood toy fire truck come alive. Total Winner!
So if you are saying: “I want a used fire truck from Japan,” then register here with us at Japan Car Direct and we’ll get you together with the clean, bright, shiny red charmer that might just save your property, too. For all the money we ended up spending to build a new farm house for my father-in-law, we could have bought and maintained a FLEET of kei fire trucks for decades.