Positioning Aerial Apparatus On The Fire Scene - Part 2

Michael A. Wieder offers guidelines on the proper fireground placement of aerial apparatus, focusing on the tactical considerations of the incident.


It can be argued that the fireground placement of aerial apparatus is the most critical of all the types of apparatus. The primary reason for this is that the aerial apparatus is equipped with an aerial device of fixed maximum length. On the other hand, most fire department pumpers carry in excess...


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It can be argued that the fireground placement of aerial apparatus is the most critical of all the types of apparatus. The primary reason for this is that the aerial apparatus is equipped with an aerial device of fixed maximum length. On the other hand, most fire department pumpers carry in excess of 1,000 feet of fire hose. It is almost always possible to add an extra section of hose to make an attack line long enough to do the job. You cannot add a section to the aerial device. Thus, it is more crucial to give the optimum scene position to the aerial apparatus than to the pumpers.

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Photo by Michael A. Wieder
Long extensions at low elevations place an extreme amount of stress on the aerial device.

It is important that driver/operators be versed in the basics of proper positioning so that they can apply them when faced with a particular situation. In Part 1 of this series, we examined some of the important considerations regarding the surface and spot that the apparatus is parked on before deployment of the aerial device. In this article we will examine the other important part of the spotting equation: the tactical considerations of the incident.

General Considerations

For any given situation, the proper distance between the objective and the aerial apparatus is the distance that affords maximum stability and the best climbing angle, and allows for adequate extension. This should be consistent with the planned use of the ladder and the conditions at the emergency.

Long extensions at low angles place the maximum amount of stress on an aerial device and, in some cases, reduce the load-carrying capacity of that device. Whenever possible, long extensions at low angles should be avoided. This can be done by getting as close to the desired objective as safely possible. Because of sidewalks, parked cars, poorly positioned early-arriving engine companies and other roadside obstacles, it is seldom possible to position the apparatus directly adjacent to the objective.

Another factor that affects the distance from the building that the aerial device may be positioned is the condition of the fire building. If the building has been exposed to severe fire conditions or has otherwise been weakened, it is not desirable to park too close to the building. Otherwise, a collapse could subject the apparatus and personnel operating on it to being struck by falling debris or being exposed to high levels of radiant heat following the collapse. Parking at least one and one-half times the height away from the building and parking on a corner reduces the chance of being hit by falling debris.

Possible stress to the aerial device can also have an impact on where the apparatus should be positioned. Stresses are those factors that work against the strength of the aerial device. Ladder and boom stress is an important consideration in aerial operation. Stress may be imposed in both static (at rest) and dynamic (in motion) operation. The stress tends to be greater when the aerial device is in motion.

Aerial device load capabilities vary from truck to truck and must be evaluated on an individual basis to determine the range of safe operation. Manufacturers' recommendations should be consulted and adhered to for maximum loading information.

Aerial device stress can occur from one or a combination of the following conditions:

  • Excessive degree of angle, both horizontal and vertical, measured from the truck's centerline axis.
  • Operation in nonparallel positions (uphill, downhill or lateral grades).
  • Operation in supported vs. unsupported positions.
  • Length of aerial device extension.
  • Nozzle reaction from elevated master stream.
  • Weight and/or movement of hose, water, personnel and/or equipment on the aerial device.
  • Wind reaction.
  • Improper operation of the aerial device (sudden starts and stops).
  • Heat exposure (radiant and convected).
  • Ice on the ladder or platform.
  • Impact with the building or another object.
  • Improper stabilization.
  • Wear from road travel.
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