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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There are four main tactical uses for any aerial device (excluding water towers): rescue, access to upper levels, ventilation and fire suppression. The following sections cover specific positioning considerations for each tactic.

Rescue

The best rescue approach is made from upwind, so consequently the apparatus should be parked so that the aerial device turntable is upwind of the target. If an approach is made from downwind, the aerial device operator may have difficulty seeing the objective, and crews and victims will have to deal with the products of combustion or other toxic clouds.

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Photo by Michael A. Wieder
Position the floor of the bucket at roof level when performing vertical ventilation.

If possible, aerial apparatus used for rescue should be placed at the corner of the building. This lets rescuers use the aerial device to reach victims on two sides of the building. This is also a less vulnerable position in the event that a structural collapse occurs.

If a rescue is to be made from an area threatened by fire, hoselines can be used to protect the victims, rescuers and the aerial device. However, use caution in fire stream selection if this is the case. Solid-bore or straight-stream master streams directed against an aerial device can place damaging load stresses on the device that could ultimately result in a collapse of the device. The preferred procedure is to use a wide-angle fog stream to push the heat or fire away from the aerial while the rescue operation is in progress. Caution must be used not to injure or knock people off the aerial device.

Placement of an apparatus equipped with an elevating platform device depends on how you plan to get the victim into the platform. If the victim is to be lifted over the top rail, the apparatus should be placed so that the turntable is directly in line with the target. This allows the front of the platform to be placed squarely in front of the target. If the victim will enter the platform through the hinged gate, the turntable must be spotted a little forward or behind the target. This is because the platform gates are typically on the side of the platform. Thus the device must be raised at an angle to the target to provide safe access to the gates.

Access To Upper Levels

Several operations require the use of aerial devices to give firefighters access to upper levels. Among them are performing interior truck work and using interior handlines off the aerial device. Aerial devices are used as a means of escape if interior or roof conditions become unsafe. Aerial devices are also used as a method to deploy portable equipment.

Whatever the situation, building coverage and aerial device reach should be maximized and upwind positioning used whenever possible. Apparatus position should afford the maximum degree of safety to the firefighters who are using the aerial device. This often involves positioning the apparatus on the side of the building opposite the fire. This position lets interior attack crews advance hoselines toward the fire area from the unburned side. This is a standard firefighting tactic used to avoid pushing the fire into uninvolved portions of the building. As well, firefighters who are retreating from unsafe positions will most likely move toward the unburned side. They can then escape down the aerial if necessary. When aerial devices are used for this purpose, they should not be repositioned unless approval is given by the firefighters who were deployed by it.

Many departments choose not to use aerial devices for extending handlines or the other access reasons described in the previous paragraph. Their reasoning is that these uses tie up the aerial device and make it unavailable for deployment to other locations should the need arise. The choice of either policy is a local decision that must be clear in the department's standard operating procedures (SOPs).

Ventilation

Ventilation is an important function of the truck company. Proper placement of the aerial device can make the ventilation process quicker and safer. If the aerial device is being used to provide access for ventilating a pitched roof, it may be possible to position the apparatus so that the firefighters may operate directly from the aerial device. This is beneficial in the event that a sudden roof collapse occurs.