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Speed is of the utmost importance for emergency responders. When a fire breaks out, for instance, a delay in rescue workers arriving on-site can directly lead to lives being lost.

But while fire trucks have powerful, torquey engines that enable them to haul a full team and all of their firefighting equipment, they aren’t the most nimble vehicles when you need to bust a U-turn on a narrow road. Thankfully, some firefighters in China’s Nanjing City don’t have to worry about pulling off such complex maneuvers on their way to a blaze, thanks to their crazy-looking double-headed fire engines that can be driven in either direction.

Unlike the double vision video of Tokyo we looked at recently, the truck wasn’t produced through clever image editing. The vehicular Frankenstein’s monster isn’t the creation of a Chinese company, either.

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As can be seen in the photo above, the fire engine wears the badge of German heavy truck maker MAN on its front grille, which also doubles as a back-end. Purchased at a reported price of nine million yuan (US$1.44 million), the dual-cabbed fire truck can be driven in either direction, with its drivetrain configured so that whichever wheels happen to be operating as the front pair turn so that the vehicle can be steered.

The unique fire engines have previously been deployed in the Mont Blanc Tunnel which runs through the Alps connecting France and Italy. The 11-6-kilometer (7.2-mile) passage is only two lanes wide, meaning turning the truck around inside the tunnel is an extremely difficult endeavor that’s rendered unnecessary with the ability to easily drive in either direction.

▼ Mont Blanc Tunnel entrance

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Of course, it’s already standard operating procedure for fire companies to back their vehicles in when parking at the firehouse in order to facilitate speedy dispatches. Ideally, the driver should also have his route planned ahead of time, thereby eliminating the chance of getting lost and having to turn around on the way to the fire.

Still, fires often come with road-clogging debris, not to mention masses of citizens all trying to flee the area at once. More specific to Nanjing, China’s rapid economic development means that in many cities infrastructure hasn’t kept up with the increases in the population and number of vehicles on the road, often resulting in narrow and crowded streets that don’t leave enough room for a standard-sized passenger car to make a three-point turn, let alone something as large as a fire engine.

In those situations, we’re sure the drivers of these dual-headed fire trucks are thankful for the option to reverse course without having to spend the time to turn around, just like fire victims are no doubt grateful for anything that gets the firefighters to the scene even a second more quickly.

Source: Toychan, LiveLeak, Dark Roasted Blend, Commercial Motor
Top image: QQ
Insert images: QQ, Wikipedia/Christophe Jacquet