1. #1
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    Default CA. WOODEN LADDERS

    WHILE IN A DISCUSSION AND TRAINING YESTERDAY AT WORK THE SUBJECT OF WOODEN LADDERS CAME UP. THE ENSUING TOPIC BECAME WHY DO SOME CALIFORNIA DEPARTMENTS PRODUCE AND USE WOODEN LADDERS, TRADITION OR SOME OTHER REASON. I WOULD LIKE TO HEAR FROM SOME WEST COAST FIRE FIGHTERS ON THIS ONE. IT SEEMS LIKE THAT THE WOODED TYPE ARE MORE PREVALENT IN CA???? WHY?????
    YES I AM A PROFESSIONAL FIRE FIGHTER AND YES I AM IN THE UNION

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    Not from CA but, my 1st company bought a Trk from NY state which had wooden ladders. The roof ladders are nice because they are arched. The 24' is a bear...it is a struggle even with 2 guys. Finally we replaced it with an aluminum ladder. As for the old wooden.... it magically disappeared...
    I too would like to know why CA has traditionally stayed with wooden ladders.
    Keep Safe!

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    San Francisco was famous for using hand-made wooden ladders, including a monster with outrigger poles, can't remember how tall it is. Not positive if this is still the case or the specific reasons they've stayed with wood over the alternative materials.
    In Arduis Fidelis
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    The discussion of metal v. Wooden ladders is an interesting one.

    First lets look at the features of both:

    Metal=
    -Good Conductor of heat, cold and ELECTRICITY.
    -Easily repairable
    -Can suddenly fail from heat and flame exposure without warning.

    Wood=
    -Higher cost than metal
    -Can be exposed to heat and fire and retain its strength.
    -Nonconductor
    -good durablity
    -requires occasional mantenance

    Second the factor of weight should be examined:
    The common belief is that all wooden ladders are heavier than their metal counter parts. Citing a chart from John Mittendorfs book Truck Company Ops----
    Metal
    24ft ext 75-142lbs
    20ft str 65
    16ft str 56
    Wood
    24ft ext 110
    20ft str 65
    16ft str 52

    So the wood ladders depending on the manufacuter are comparable if not lighter than the metal ones.

    Finally lets discuss the safety issue:

    There have been countless firemen killed by electricution because of metal ladders.
    The Telephone companies(one of which my father works for) uses exclusively fiberglass ladders fore safety reasons and the National Electrical safety code prohibits the use of metal ladders around electrical conductors.

    So Mittendorf asks why does the fire service still cling to metal ladders?

    I think it has to do with politicians and Chiefs who like the lower cost of metal vs. wooden despite it's safety concerns.

    Those are some of the reasons wooden ladders should be used anywhere not just the west coast.

    I hope this adds some insight to the discussion.

    Two cents from a fireman.

    [ 11-09-2001: Message edited by: FRED ]

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    I THINK WE ARE ALL AWARE OF THE SUBTLE DIFFERENCES BETWEEN WOODEN AND METAL. WHAT IM LOOKING FOR IS THE REASON THAT SOME WEST COAST DEPARTMENTS USE AND PRODUCE THIER OWN WOODEN LADDERS??? ARE THEY DIFFERENT DIMENSIONS SUCH AS DISTANCE BETWEEN RUNGS???DISTANCE BETWEEN BEAMS??? SALTY AIR???? WHAT IS IT?????
    YES I AM A PROFESSIONAL FIRE FIGHTER AND YES I AM IN THE UNION

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    Tradition doesn't play a very large role in the use of the wooden ladders in San Francisco. In fact from what I hear, we are testing some fiberglass ladders now because we are finding it difficult to locate craftsmen with the ability to make and repair the wood ladders.

    The wood ladders are non-conductive like the fiberglass, and I THINK they are lighter as well. This is a key point here because of the large number of overhead wires throughout the city. Alluminum just is not an option for us. But more importantly, the weight of the ladder has to be decreased because of the number of "Little People" hired over the last 20 years. You wouldn't believe the number of 5 feet 100 pound "fire-whatevers" there are.
    Wood can be damaged by fire more quickly than the fiberglass, but they can be repaired at a lower cost rather than having to purchase a whole new ladder.

    We used to have 2 section 65 ft. and 32 ft. straight that were done away with a number of years ago because of the reasons stated above. Our longest is a 50 ft. 2 section ladder. It is most commonly raised with 6 people, but it can be done with 4 strong guys. The 65 and 50 use the "poles" that were referred to earier. They assist greatly in the raising and lowering of the ladder and its stability.

    The ground ladders are crutial because of the large number of 3 and 4 story structures that are inaccessable with the trucks due to the wires, trees, hills, distance from the street, etc. I hope this will give more diner table conversation.

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    This has long been a curiousity of mine too!

    FYI, I think we can pretty much rule out Salty Air...I'd reckon the road salt of the winter months in the Northeast and Midwest are much worse than salt air. Especially in coastal New England where you'd have both salty air in summer, and salty roads in winter!

    As to the weight, I'd have to take Fred's numbers on it. Our wooden ladders where an old set (1947) and those weighed less than our more modern Aluminum ladders for the same lengths. Still have a 16' for history on the wall, and I love it for reaching the roof of the firehouse since it's so light and maneuverable!

    My other thought is how the wooden ladders perform in ladder testing. The ladder testing method is pretty destructive, but aluminum with the right alloys can bend dramatically and come back to shape. Wood can bend dramatically, but I'd bet the best wood still will snap before the best aluminum. We did have one terrific 2 section 28' aluminum ladder that we bought in 1952, and it passed the ladder tests until 1995 when we retired it, still passing!
    IACOJ Canine Officer
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    Firemonkey, that's a good question. It must be cheeper to have our own ladder shop with our own employees. If it were not, then the city would most certainly contract out the ladder repair and purchase. God knows they have enough ladders to keep them busy. It may also be the turn around time if they had to be sent down to LA to be repaired then returned.

    I don't know if our ladders have different dimenssions than others out there. I know the materials to biuld the ladders are very specific. Sorry I couldn't give more info.

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