The Apparatus Architect

Part 43 At the scene of a fire in a three-story, wood-frame dwelling, the engine company is making a push into the attic to cut off the fire extension into this area. For some unknown reason, the attack line goes limp and the engine crew is without...


Part 43 At the scene of a fire in a three-story, wood-frame dwelling, the engine company is making a push into the attic to cut off the fire extension into this area. For some unknown reason, the attack line goes limp and the engine crew is without water. Due to the high heat, the firefighters...


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Going back into history, fewer than 40 years ago, the minimum requirement for ground ladders on aerial devices was a total of 228 feet. Over the years, the minimum standard complement for ground ladders has been reduced to the current level of 115 feet on aerial devices and 85 feet for quint apparatus. Additionally, NFPA 1901 states that the 115-foot complement should include one folding ladder, two roof ladders and three extension ladders. In many cases, fire apparatus manufacturers have designed standard aerial ladder bodies around this requirement with some options to increase the number of ladders carried inside of the body or mounted on the aerial device itself.

Quint-style aerial devices are further complicated in that the packaging of the fire pump, water tank, hosebed and ground ladder storage are all competing for the same space and weight considerations in the overall design of the unit. For this reason, fewer options are available for increasing the ground ladder complement on these devices without sacrificing compartment space or water tank capacity. On single-axle quint units, there is a tendency to overload these devices as there is a practical limit to the amount of apparatus components together with the NFPA equipment allowance of 2,500 pounds that can safely be carried on a single axle. It is not uncommon for a well-equipped ladder company to carry equipment that will total more than the 2,500-pound minimum payload. It is incumbent for the fire department to provide an equipment inventory with weights to prospective bidders so that an appropriate allowance can be made for the required fixed equipment, portable tools and other components on the finished vehicle. The Fire Apparatus Manufactures Association (FAMA) website can be a valuable help in this endeavor (www.fama.org) as well as individual tool and equipment vendors.

Beyond the minimum ground ladder complement as outlined in NFPA 1901, any department that operates a ladder company should have a good idea as to what ground ladders are needed to properly serve its area. One way to accomplish this is to visit the residential and commercial buildings in the first-due area and, with the building owners' permission, place ground ladders at various points on each building to determine what type and length of ladder will be needed to properly cover all sides and elevations on the building. You may find, for example, that a 28-foot or 30-foot extension ladder will work just fine at one point, saving that 35-foot extension ladder to go to the roof or balcony of a structure where the aerial ladder cannot be positioned to reach that objective.

After you have completed several of these scenarios, you can determine how many wall, roof and extension ladders will be required on the fireground to cover all of the building exposures. Once you total up the required footage of ladders required, you may find that the 85-foot or 115-foot minimum standards will not meet your needs. Not to worry! You now have the information required when you sit down with an apparatus builder's representative to determine how to best outfit your new aerial device with the complement of ground ladders that will protect your personnel and provide sufficient ground ladder deployment at the incident scene.

As a practical example, several months ago, a fire department in upstate New York held a multi-unit drill at an apartment complex in its first-due area. The host company operated a single-axle quint as the first-due unit, followed by several engines and one rear-mount tower from a neighboring company. The units entered the complex as they would during an alarm, with the rear-mount quint arriving on the scene and establishing a water supply by laying a large-diameter hoseline (LDH) and positioning the aerial to reach the roof.

At this point, several problems ensued, including having the supply line catch under the wheels of a privately owned vehicle (POV) in the parking lot and damaging the rear of the apparatus tailboard. The design of the supply line hosebed on the quint was such that the hose passed under the turntable through a chute. When the apparatus turned the corner, the hose coupling became hung up, causing the hose to drag behind the apparatus.

After initially positioning the quint in the crowded parking area, there was limited room to spot the apparatus. After deploying the outriggers and raising the 75-foot aerial, it became apparent that there was insufficient horizontal reach to make the roof or any of the upper-story balconies on the building. Several lessons were learned: