The Apparatus Architect

Your fire department has just determined it is time to replace the 1995 100-foot quint rear-mount ladder with a new apparatus. The current vehicle is equipped with 158 feet of portable ground ladders, including two 35-foot, three-section extension ladders...


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One aluminum ground ladder company’s catalog lists a two-section, 35-foot extension ladder as having a closed length of 20 feet, one inch with a weight of 139 pounds. A three-section version of the same ladder is 15 feet, eight inches long and weighs 170 pounds. A truss-style version of the two-section, 35-foot ladder has a slightly higher banking thickness, but is only two pounds heavier than a solid-beam, pumper-style extension ladder. The ground ladder banking on any aerial device can be determined in conjunction with the apparatus manufacturer’s body engineering group, which can provide suggestions to enable your apparatus committee to maximize the available space to carry portable ladders.

 

Meeting your needs

The College Park, MD, Fire Department operates as Station 812 in Prince George’s County with two engines, a rear-mount ladder, a foam unit, a hazardous materials support unit, two ambulances and a medic unit. Due to the building and structural conditions on the University of Maryland campus and the surrounding response area, the department has outfitted its engines and a county-provided ladder truck with a diverse complement of ground ladders.

Prince George’s County recently placed into service two Pierce Arrow XT 105-foot rear-mount ladders that carry a total of 266 feet of ground ladders, including a 45-foot bangor ladder (an extension ladder controlled by poles), two 35-foot extension ladders together with two 16-foot roof ladders and a 28-foot extension ladder carried on the right side of the apparatus. The ground ladder banking is clearly marked to indicate the length of each ladder. A simple solution may be to label the inside portion of the ladder guard with reflective numbers in addition to marking the butt spurs on the ladders with the appropriate length of each ladder.

Ground ladder storage areas on aerial apparatus are largely dependent on the packaging of other chassis and body components. The banking arrangement of on-beam or flat positions may also be influenced based on the maximum travel height of the apparatus, so when specifying a new apparatus it is a good idea to confirm the principal dimensions of the apparatus bays, including ramp angles and other height restrictions in the response area.

Tractor-drawn ladders have a distinct advantage of having almost unlimited space to carry portable ladders both inside of the trailer and on each side of the body compartments. Where there is a requirement to carry a number of longer roof and wall ladders in addition to multiple two-section extension ladders, a tractor-drawn aerial can easily accommodate more than 300 feet of portable ladders with room to spare.

When designing any new aerial device, careful consideration must be given to determining the appropriate number and configuration of portable ground ladders. As the old fire service proverb goes: “You can stretch a hose, but you cannot stretch a ladder.”

While operating on the fireground the proper placement of ground ladders is of vital importance for the safety of our personnel as well as any potential victims within the building. No other agency responding to our incidents is carrying portable ladders, so make sure you have pre-planned your first-due area to ensure that your rigs are carrying the correct complements of ground ladders.