Where have all the Ladders Gone? (Part 2)

Part one of, "Where have all the ladders gone?" discussed ladder packaging, establishing a "Working Set" s an operational norm on all fires and the functions and responsibilities of first-due and second-due truck companies on the assignment.


In part two, we will look at the functions of a pro-active RIC Company, use of Squads / RA's or Medic Units of a working assignment and our Ole Favorite, "The Crusty Engineer".

RIC Companies:

As previously discussed in other articles, a primary purpose of RIC Companies is the elimination of hazards before they become a problem for firefighters on scene.  One such method is the pro-active placement of ladders for means of access and egress on the structure. If for instance, the first-due truck is operating on the roof with only one means of access and egress, the RIC Company Officer should direct his personnel to throw a set of working ladders in the operational area nearest the location of the members on the roof.

In another instance, if the RIC Officer is aware of operations above ground on the second floor, he/she should identify the area closest to the potential of a hostile event or structural failure and have additional ladders placed at windows at a 65% angle for firefighter egress.  All members operating in that area shall then be notified via radio communications of the placement of those ladders and what area and division that has been placed upon.


Squads, Rescues and First Due Engineers:

Based upon your response configuration, many organizations respond medic units with two firefighter personnel to the incident as part of the original assignment.  If this company is not generally assigned to establish a medical group, they are typically assigned to assist with some other fireground function. Unfortunately, often they are given the task of RIC and never supplemented by a full company.  Yet, these two highly motivated individuals can be given the task of laddering the building or throwing additional ladders upon arrival then re-assigned to assist with other task on the fireground, such as, secondary search, assist RIC, extension or medical group.  Once again, the Incident Commander needs to think proactively and eliminate those hazards that a glaringly obvious before he needs to deploy a RIC or use a medical group.   


How many times have you heard an Ole’ Crusty Engineer say, “The job of an Engineer is busy for the first five minutes of the fire, then I just sit back and watch.” And for the most part they are telling you the truth, but I would also imagine that many of those Ole’Crusty Engineers neglected to tell you they are the primary Safety Officer on the scene of the fire as well.


 Many times, I have been assigned to the roof of a single-family dwelling, only to have and additional ladder thrown to the area of operations by the First –Due Engineer.  With his keen eye and experience behind him, he knows that once a water supply has been established and lines are stretched and in service, he has a moment to identify specific fireground hazards and take proactive action.  One of those tasks could be throwing an additional straight ladder to the roof of a single-family occupancy of the window where personnel may need immediate egress due to deteriorating conditions. 


Finally, it’s key we recognize the importance of aggressive laddering operations for all personnel, not just our truck companies.  All personnel need to be well versed in aggressive ladder placement and ladder packages related to occupancy groups and types.  The importance of providing means of access and egress points on all above ground areas of a structure will greatly increase personnel safety. 


Company Officers need to take steps to assure all personnel assigned to their units have the ability to effectively perform laddering operations and have a solid understanding of ladder tactics as it relates to differing type of occupancies.  Nothing can take the place of hands-on training and real world ladder operations in full PPE not just helmets and gloves.  When we start wearing just helmets and gloves to structure fires, then our training should mirror that safe level of PPE. 


Since I don’t see that as a viable option, train the way you fight fire and train as though your life and the lives of your brothers and sister depend upon it, because it does.


Sit back and enjoy the "Cuppa"