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This is an extract from the local news site:

A total of 50 firefighters attended a blaze at a garden centre.

Crews from Shipley and Ilkley were among the six appliances who attended a fire at Stephen H Smith's Garden & Leisure...

Source: T&A, 19-Jul-17, emphasis is mine.

I understand that the word appliances in this context relates to fire engines and equipment, but to me the sentence seems awkward.

My question is, is the word appliances being used correctly in this sentence?

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    Appliance is certainly the technical term for any fire-fighting vehicle (see Oxford sense 2). Quite why that is used, I have no idea. – Andrew Leach Jul 19 '17 at 10:15
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    @AndrewLeach how strange. I've never heard of that in BrE. – marcellothearcane Jul 19 '17 at 10:20
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    The term fire appliance is widely used in Britain, usually at a more formal level to mean fire engine. However it is clearly not being used correctly here. It seems to be equating people (crews) with inanimate objects (appliances). A better way of putting it would have been: Appliances manned by crews from Shipley and Ilkley were among the six which attended a fire at... Now I'm just waiting for some smart Alec (or should that be "smart Alex") to point out that I have used gender-specific language. – WS2 Jul 19 '17 at 11:52
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    @WS2: I can oblige with being the smart Alex! You could have said staffed rather than manned :-) – user1108 Jul 19 '17 at 12:09
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    @user1108 Staffed to my mind, more reflects the sort of people who wield pens. I feel sure that Fire Commissioner Dany Cotton, who led the crews at the Grenfell Tower, has no trouble thinking of herself as a fireman. Besides the OED sense 1a of the verb to man is defined in a way that covers both genders: a. orig. Mil. and Naut. To provide (a fort, ship, etc.) with a person or a company of people as a crew, defensive force, etc. (also intr.); to serve or defend (a fort, ship, piece of equipment, etc.). Women cricketers call themselves batsmen. – WS2 Jul 19 '17 at 12:54
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No, it isn't being used correctly. "Fire appliances" refers to the vehicles, more commonly known as "Fire engines". It doesn't refer to the crews that man or use them.

Since "six appliances" is followed by "who attended", something only a crew, not an appliance could do (since inanimate objects cannot 'attend' something) then I presume the writer made a simple mistake in thinking that "appliance" was an alternative word for "crew" in this context, and used it to avoid repeating the word "crew". In hindsight "companies" would have been a better choice.

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    A common use in similar stories is "the air ambulance attended...". An inanimate object can attend, under human control; alternatively it can be thought of as representing the crew as well. But I agree with you that the example use isn't quite right. – Chris H Jul 19 '17 at 16:30
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    Good point: inanimate objects can be seen a proxy for their controllers. But you definitely wouldn't say "who attended" when referring to the inanimate objects. – Max Williams Jul 19 '17 at 16:32

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