Ground Ladders and Saving Lives

How many and what size do you carry?    Think back to your days in the fire academy, and learning about portable ladders.  We were taught the basic one and two person carries and raises.  We always fully extended the ladder on the side of the drill tower, and were told to place it at the exact same angle every time.  Class is over, you are now on the job, and you know how to use portable ladders, right??  Not so fast.  We weren’t taught to become fire ground effective, we simply just repeated the exact same process over and over. We need repetition to become proficient, but we must be able to adapt that proficiency to a variety of situations.  Today’s fire ground requires much more skill and thought to overcome the dynamic challenges we face.

Rather than place the tip of the ladder in a different location for different tasks, we should realize that with less staffing and more work to be done, we must work smarter, not harder.  Placing the tip of the ladder at the base of the window provides a means of entry and egress for firefighters working on upper floors.  We can actually use the tip of the ladder to begin ventilation efforts, and to assist in our ongoing size up of conditions. If we place the ladder at a more shallow angle, we can more easily complete the window vent with our hand tools, lessen the effort it takes to remove an unconscious or uncooperative victim, and have a safer exit platform for a quick headfirst escape. Being able to overcome obstacles, both overhead and on the ground, uneven terrain, and/or unique building features requires both training and experience.

How much weight will your ladder truly support, how many firefighters will be needed to safely and efficiently raise and position the ladder, and what length ladder will be need to reach your intended objective.  While bringing the ladder into position, we should already know ahead of time who is going to be extending the fly, who is climbing the ladder first, and who is heeling the ladder.  Estimating the amount of extension needed is no easy task on the fly, especially under stressful conditions.  Now add in smoke, and even darkness to obscure your vision, and any mistake can be compounded.  Come up short, and you’ll need to bring the ladder back off the objective to raise the fly. Go too high, and we may not have enough room to lessen the angle enough for proper positioning.  All this takes time, and most often, when time is our enemy.

Some of the common lengths of ladders are the 14′ roof, 24′ extension, 16′ and 18′ straight or roof ladders, and the 28′ and 35′ extension ladder.  Most of  these can be carried and raised by one firefighter, however, the 28′ and 35′ extension ladder require at a minimum 2 firefighters, and preferably 3 for the 35′.   What heights will each of these ladders reach?  Being able to estimate the height of your objective and know which ladder to use will save time and energy, both of which we will need to maximize to accomplish the task at hand.

How do you train on ground ladders?

How do you foot the ladder and why? What angle does your FD place ground ladders?

How do you foot the ladder and why? What angle does your FD place ladders?

4 thoughts on “Ground Ladders and Saving Lives

  1. On the 24ft ext. it will get you to the typical lower portion of the third story residential. We have found that listening to the “clicks” of the dogs you can estimate a proper length for a bail out angle when raised to the 2nd story of a residential building WINDOW. So raising the ladder 2 “clicks” will get you there (most of the time) It’s a good starting point, at least when it’s go time, it’s dark, and vision is obscured, all you remember is 2 clicks gets you there! Worth trying out during training….Also make sure to raise that ladder to the proper “climbing angle” when raising to the roof the more rungs the better!…

  2. Love some ladder work! Unfortunately it seems alot of folks only know the basics they learned in rookie school (and sometimes even those basics are fuzzy) and never really take the time to get to know their ladders more intimately (hope it’s ok to use that word here). In my department, the Engine Companies carry the typical NFPA 1901 complement (24′ extension, 14′ roof and 10′ attic ladder) and the Truck Companies carry one 35′ extension, one 24′ extension, two 16′ roof, one 10′ attic and one 8′ attic ladder. Ground ladders are an invaluable tool/asset on the fire ground, yet somehow they get overlooked by many until they absolutely need them. Problem is, if you don’t train with them you’re not going to be very effective with them when time and technique count. Is it just me, or are others seeing the same thing? Thanks DJ for the creative way of training to KNOW your ladders! Good stuff!

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