The Apparatus Architect - Part 19: Designing Ladder Company Apparatus

Tom Shand and Michael Wilbur discuss the type of aerial device your department will acquire after it has carefully assessed the operational characteristics of each piece of aerial apparatus and how its use may benefit your department.


In the last installment of The Apparatus Architect, we discussed some of the concepts and procedures that your truck committee should consider when evaluating aerial devices that can be demonstrated in your community. Having first-hand knowledge of your response area should allow the committee to...


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In the last installment of The Apparatus Architect, we discussed some of the concepts and procedures that your truck committee should consider when evaluating aerial devices that can be demonstrated in your community. Having first-hand knowledge of your response area should allow the committee to carefully assess the operational characteristics of each piece of aerial apparatus and how its use may benefit your department. Now that you have seen at least several different manufacturers’ rigs, it’s time to decide exactly what type of aerial device your department is going to acquire.

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Photo by Tom Shand
The Union Fire Company of Carlisle, PA, operates this 2003 KME 75-foot ladder apparatus, which is equipped with five pre- connected attack lines with a 48-inch-wide pump enclosure. Four 13¼4-inch attack lines with both 200-foot and 300-foot lengths and one 200-foot 21¼2-inch attack line are carried.

If your department is like many and you are replacing a conventional aerial ladder, your committee has probably looked at some type of aerial platform or tower ladder. Either of these units can provide effective ladder company service, providing it meets the needs of the community and fits into the tactical operations of the fire department. Probably one of the biggest sticking points with respect to ladder truck design is whether to include a fire pump into the design of the vehicle. We will not delve into the positive and negative aspects of operating quints, as this will be the subject of another future article. However, introducing a fire pump into the design of the ladder truck can drastically affect the outcome and usefulness of the rig.

First, let’s consider some of the rationale behind providing a major fire pump rated at 1,500 gpm or more on an aerial device. The fire pump can be utilized to provide water for master stream operations for the aerial without having to tie up another pumper on the fireground. Properly designed aerial waterways can easily provide elevated master streams of 1,000 gpm and greater, depending on the diameter of the waterway pipes, valve size and plumbing layout. When combined with a small water tank and several pre-connected handlines, the unit can be self-sufficient at an incident until another engine company arrives. A typical fire pump and plumbing will add approximately 1,500 pounds of weight to the vehicle, but more importantly will either increase the chassis wheelbase by 20 to 30 inches or take up space in the body that could be used as a transverse body compartment.

Once you decide to include a fire pump on the apparatus, the next issue to address is whether to include a water tank and hosebed. If a water tank is specified, the National Fire Protection Association (NFPA) 1901 required minimum size is 300 gallons. When combined with a minimum hosebed capacity of 30 cubic feet, the typical quint aerial device will have approximately 40% less storage space for tools and equipment when compared to a non-quint apparatus. In addition, when an aerial apparatus is designed as a quint unit, NFPA 1901 states that only 85 feet of ground ladders are required on the apparatus. As we have stated in previous articles in The Apparatus Architect series, the minimum ground ladder requirements may not meet the needs of your response area and you should carefully determine the ladders needed to cover the buildings in your first-due area. Then make sure that these ground ladder requirements are put into your final specifications.

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Photo by Tom Shand
Engine 241, operated by the Union Fire Company, carries 1,300 feet of five-inch supply line, a 200-foot three-inch blitz line and 400 feet of three-inch spare hose. Note the low-height hosebed and rear step arrangement.
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