Anybody out there know if it is possible to retrofit a ladder truck with on-board breathing air? We currently wear our SCBA when operating on the ladder however in certain situations it would be nice to have master cylinders, possibly attached to the sides of the ladder at its base, that we could breath off of by simply connecting in a face piece at the ladder's tip.
I know it exists however, most everyone I have talked to got their ladder with air from the manufacturer at time of purchase not as a retrofit.
I'm assuming I can go back to the trucks manufacturer however I was looking to see if anyone has had any experience with such a situation and could provide a ballpark on price and whether it was worth the effort or not!
Thanks! Stay Safe!
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Thread: Breathing Air on Ladder Trucks
01-29-2002, 04:38 PM #1
Breathing Air on Ladder Trucks
02-05-2002, 10:46 AM #2
- Join Date
- Jan 2001
I think the cost outweighs the need.Depending on the aerial device,how many times do you have a firefighter at the tip to justify the initial cost and the annual testing/maintenance of this system?Our quints have a pre-piped waterway with remote control nozzle/stream movement.So having someone "hanging at the tip"isn't a safe needed procedure.I guess it comes down to YOUR need and whether you can justify the cost in todays economy.
02-05-2002, 10:57 AM #3
Thanks for the reply. I agree with you however some of my guys asked me to do some research so here I am.
02-05-2002, 01:13 PM #4
- Join Date
- Jan 2002
I think it would be a good idea to draft a report outlining what it is you normally do with your aerial truck. In this way you can evaluate the cost versus benefit. How much use will it get, etc. should be evaluated. I have been on aerails with and without air supplys and I found that when we ordered to the top? to stand there, it certainly helped to have the air. Good luck. If you need any help with the report, just contact me and I would be glad to help...free to a brother.
02-07-2002, 02:34 AM #5
- Join Date
- Jan 1999
- Jefferson, MD USA
You shouldn't be putting firefighters on the aerial tip for extended operations (i.e. ladder pipe operations). This has been proven over time to be extremely dangerous. Use ropes to operate your ladder pipe from the turntable, or save your money and buy a pre-piped waterway next time. If you have a pre-piped waterway already and your still putting firefighters on the tip...well, I'm not going to waste my time....
02-10-2002, 10:27 AM #6
This has been proven over time to be extremely dangerous.
God, I'd love to see the studies and/or evidence to support that contention.
Ropes are just so efficient...ya get to work the pipe up and down without an idea if your actually hitting the fire or not.
Ideally you'd have a TIC mounted to the tip along with a remote control electric ladder pipe. Until then, you need someone up top to keep an eye on the stream to use your water effectively and put the fire out sooner then shooting blind. Well, maybe sometimes you just setup to be a portable rainmaker, but I'd hope that's the exception rather than the rule.
We did opt not to have pre-piped air on our aerial. However, what we do have the capability to do is grab the confined space kit and run a 100' length of hose up the ladder if the case occured we'd want someone up top for extended periods. My experience has been 75% of the time on the ladder pipe, I've been in clear air and the mask went unused on my back. For the other times, it's probably not to difficult to swap people out every 20 or 40 minutes. For that matter, even if the guy on the top locks the pipe in, comes down and takes a break, changes bottle, and goes up again it's not the end of the world. I just get really annoyed when I see people shooting water blindly, wether it's inside a building, outside a building, or from an aerial.
02-10-2002, 11:42 AM #7
I just get really annoyed when I see people shooting water blindly, wether it's inside a building, outside a building, or from an aerial.
- Join Date
- Jan 2002
02-13-2002, 01:48 AM #8
I would hope firefighters are not even risking people getting hit by an elevated master stream by having crews anywhere near the targeted areas.
I agree with "Driver Only" on this. Any training I've had has always discouraged the use of someone at the tip with a manual water cannon.
On our old truck, ropes always worked for us. Not ideal, but better than risking injury to a firefighter on the tip. I have to chuckle because I don't know exactly what you are expecting to see at the top...I hope it's not where the water is going. Usually it's going into a window farrrrrr away, or cresting a wall farrr away. Typically fire is obscured by smoke and steam in the interior of a building, or just flames coming from some windows. Mill fires in our area (big brick chimneys with lots of stuff burning in the middle) jump to mind when I think about this.
So, I guess I gotta ask because I'm very curious now: aren't you normally (I didn't say always) using these for surround-and-drown type operations? Master stream operations from straigh-stick aerial devices without prepiped waterways implies a defensive attack to me. Maybe I'm wrong, but if you don't need to be 100' in the air (i.e. to stay out of a collapse zone), won't a portable or deck deluge gun work just as well? While I have no experience with skyscrapers or large city dwellings, I guess they're used there offensively. More-often-than-not though, they're prepiped Baker Aerialscopes, not a blitz attack with a dry ladder.
Anyhow, weird things can happen up there...hardly worth the risk. Just to make sure we're all on the same page here, we're talking about straigh-stick aerial devices, not platforms or tower ladders.
Dalmation90, I don't think it would be too hard to find the information you said you'd love to see. I'll keep an eye out for it because the examples aren't leaping in to my mind at the moment.
These are Maryland Fire-Rescue Institute's guidelines. Not saying they're "right" or "wrong." Just food for though.
- Ladder-tip pipes
1. Place pipe on ladder with proper nozzle for fire and wind conditions - must be positioned dead center and locked down securely
2. For additional safety, pipe can be tied to ladder rungs
Ladder pipe hose connected to pipe
3. Attach handle and halyard for vertical control (NOTE: pipe should not be operated from tip of ladder) - rotate ladder to move nozzle laterally
4. Siamese connected to ladder pipe hose and supply lines connected to siamese - should be shut-off valve between ladder pipe hose and siamese if siamese not gated
5. Ladder raised, and pipe aimed and charged - pipe should be charged before moved toward fire
6. Fire fighter operating halyards should be positioned on turntable
Last edited by Resq14; 02-13-2002 at 02:23 AM.
02-13-2002, 11:09 PM #9
Ladder Failures in Ladder Pipe Operations
It is true that many failures have occur with old-school ladders. But, keep in mind that many of these units are still in service. Hopefully operators of these realize the truck's limitations and operate inside the boundaries of the aerial device.
"Several aerial ladder failures have occurred when a ladder pipe was shut down after being operated at a low angle. The nozzle reaction from the ladder pipe helps to counteract the force of gravity and assists in supporting the weight of the ladder, as long as water is flowing. When the ladder pipe is shut down, the extra support is suddenly lost and the ladder may be too weak to support the weight of the ladder pipe, plus the hose and water, as well as the firefighter who may have been operating the ladder pipe. The effect is magnified if the ladder pipe has been operated by remote control and a firefighter walks out to the tip of the ladder to evaluate conditions at the same time as the ladder is shut down.
"Atlantic City, NJ - November l8, 1993
A 1970 Pirsch 100 foot aluminum ladder collapsed during a ladder pipe operation, seriously injuring one firefighter. The ladder was extended 97 feet at an elevation angle of approximately 37 degrees, which was beyond the recommended extension limits for ladder pipe operations. The tractor-trailer vehicle had been parked in a jack-knife position. As a firefighter ascended the ladder, a twisting failure occurred in the bed section, approximately eight feet from the base of the ladder. State investigators determined that there was no physical problem with the ladder which would have caused the collapse. The cause was attributed to operating the ladder in an unsafe manner.
"East Chicago, IN - July 17, 1994
A 100 foot steel Maxim ladder, originally constructed in 1959 and remounted on a 1980 Mack chassis, collapsed during a ladder-pipe operation at a large tire fire, injuring one firefighter. The ladder was extended approximately 50 to 70 feet at a 35 degree elevation angle and rotated approximately 15 degrees to the side of the truck. The ladder had not been inspected for at least two years. The ladder pipe was shut down just before the collapse occurred, and a firefighter was in the process of ascending the ladder to survey the scene and reposition the nozzle. The firefighter was approximately 50 feet up the ladder when it buckled in the first fly section just above the bed. The firefighter was seriously injured and the aerial ladder was destroyed. The falling ladder became entangled in power lines which absorbed some of the impact. The power lines had been de-energized at the request of the Incident Commander.
"Yonkers, NY - October 27, 1994
A 1987 Seagrave 100 foot steel rear-mount aerial ladder, similar to the one that was involved in the New York City incident, collapsed during a structure fire. The ladder was being used in a ladder-pipe operation and collapsed onto the roof of an adjacent house. A firefighter who was operating the ladder pipe was injured when a twisting failure occurred in the first fly section, near where it joins with the bed section. The ladder rotated to the right and fell onto the roof of the house. At the time of collapse, the truck was parked facing uphill on a slight incline.
The ladder was nearly fully extended approximately 40 degrees and nearly perpendicular to the centerline of the truck. (The exact angle of elevation at the time of collapse is not known because the ladder operator tried to lower the ladder after noticing it was collapsing. The angle of elevation after collapse was approximately 40 degrees, but the angle was probably not much more than this at the time of collapse.) The metallurgist who inspected the ladder could find no visible defects or fatigue related problems that would have caused a failure. The operating conditions were beyond the limits indicated on the inclinometer for ladder-pipe operations.
Ya, newer ladders don't have to operate under the same specific constraints of old technology. But remember, not everyone has new ladders. And even if you do, I still think it's an unsafe practice to play with a pipe at the tip. Firefighter safety far outweighs the necessity of "seeing" where your water is being applied from an elevated position. These are not the only ones either. I'll find the rest later.
Last edited by Resq14; 02-13-2002 at 11:14 PM.
02-14-2002, 12:34 AM #10
It's sad that so many places train that master streams are defensive tools.
They are the best offensive weapons we have. Master streams allow us to cut off and confine fires too big for handlines. Aerial streams in particular, when they can be used, allow us to deliver the most GPM with fewest firefighters, and deliver it more effectively onto the seat of the fire than ground streams usually can.
No, sometimes you can't see what the pipe is doing, and it's set up going into smoke.
But I'll say that's the exception when you can't see, not the rule, especially with heavy fire.
First, hot fires = smoke goes up. The thermal updraft usually carries most of the smoke up, so you have a good view from the ladder. It's not until later as the fire gets knocked down that the smoke starts to become an issue for visibility.
Second, three of the four sides are usually "upwind". Unless you're on the downwind side, even after the fire is knocked down and smoke is hanging low, ya got a good shot of seeing the stream and fire and knowing where to put it.
Two examples of operating from the tip personally come to mind.
One was an old dairy barn. Yes, we operated aerials on a barn fire. Two, in fact. Both fed by multi-thousand foot hoselines to drafting sites.
From the tip it was quite clear the stream was going into the middle and evaporating in the thermal updraft. Not very effective at all...would look good for the cameras, wouldn't bring the fire to a conclusion any faster. Being on the tip of the ladder and able to see that, I quickly adjusted tactics. Brought the stream out the edge of the building, and slowly work it inwards. That way I knocked down the fire at the edge where the thermal updraft was the least, and with that knocked down could work the stream towards the interior without high heat directly under it then. Older (1976) ladder, so all I could do was change the pipe up-down, then signal the operator to rotate the aerial just a bit for the next pass (good operator who was experienced enough to safely feather the controls). As the ladder pipe cleared an area, an exterior ground crew with 2.5" could keep the fire down. Only part of the fire I couldn't knock down with the pipe was the milk room -- a concrete wall blocked my stream, defeating my efforts to knockdown the thermal updraft. No way that situation could've been seen or handled with ropes.
Second fire which was more of a surround-and-drown mill fire. Our ladder's role (and I again was at the tip) was reinforcing two towers -- essentially being a water curtain to allow them to continue in operation instead of retreat. Wasn't a tall part of the mill, so collapse zone was small. Fire load was major though, and the fire was doubtful still at that point whether it would go to conflagaration -- homes along two sides sustained significant fire damage, and the first two 5" lines laid melted from radiant heat a half hour into the fire. Fortunately enough other lines where laid by then to make up for their loss. Yes, it was aggressive positioning of apparatus. Justified? Yes, allowing the fire to extend to multiple woodframes houses in a dense neighborhood would've been a nightmare fire. Could've we safely operated from ropes covering other trucks? No.
Yep, both of those you could've sat back and looked pretty for the cameras and not really accomplished much. On the dairy barn, the fire load would've eventually burned out. On the mill, moving the trucks back and maybe you would only loose the houses in the middle of the block, by using some aggressive interior firefighting work launched from the alleys...I'd bet using a ladder pipe to cover the other two trucks so they could put their water on the fire was safer than that operation would've been.
Letting a fire burn longer than it has to when you have the means to extinguish it is seldom the best option.
Yep, there is some old ladders in service still. I'd be surprised if anything built prior to the mid-70s can pass an aerial certification today. Of course, certifications aren't the end all be all, operating with design specs help a lot too.
Let's look at the examples you posted:
-- 1970 Pirsch operated at 97% extension and 37* elevation angle. I was taught on our 1976 Mack the limits for ladders of that age were 70% extension and more or less 70* elevation angle. Both the extension and elevation were extreme for the design of that truck. BTW, those figures wouldn't be a problem for a modern heavy duty aerial -- our 2001 Pierce can do full extension, any elevation, and upto 90* to the side.
-- 1959 Maxim, not inspected in the last 2 years. Extension of 70% was OK. Elevation of 35* was not. 35 year old non certified ladder operated at too low of an elevation failed...uh huh. NEXT.
-- 1987 Seagrave, Operated beyond the limits indicated on the inclinometer, collapsed. Gee, what was the engineer at Seagraves thinking when they calculated that inclinometer and then had someone install it on the side of the ladder. I don't know the specifics of this truck (anyone?) but my guess is it was a lightweight ladder that had a 250lb tip load dry at that angle.
From those three examples, I don't conclude that operating with someone at the tip is unsafe, I conclude
OPERATING A LADDER BEYOND IT'S DESIGN CAPABILITY IS UNSAFE.
I suppose if you want or have to operate equipment that is un-certified and/or operate beyond the design capabilities of the ladder then not sending someone to the top would be a good idea.
Frankly, I'm not sure what they were doing at those angles. Maybe they were trying to get under the eaves. Maybe they were trying to avoid overhead lines -- at any rate folks, 35, 40 degrees are uncomfortably low angles were you don't climb the ladder, you're walking it. That's not what I typically associate with ladder-pipe operations except in Towers and modern heavy duty aerials that can get down that low to get under eaves or into storefronts for heavy attacks.
02-14-2002, 03:56 AM #11
I don't pretend to be an aerial or hydraulic or fire service expert. But, come on Matt. I thought I covered all of that with the tag line "Hopefully operators of these realize the truck's limitations and operate inside the boundaries of the aerial device." I clearly stated that using the truck within its intended parameters would have prevented the majority of the incidents. No matter how you can it, paint it, or package it, these ff's were at the tips of aerial devices operating master streams which played a role in ladder failure. I realize all ladders should always be operated within their limits. That's a nice fairy tale world to live in though. Reality is that people don't know, don't care, or forget.
Of course, the solution is to make sure things are done correctly. But why risk it for something silly--yeah, i think it's silly to have someone perched on the top of a ladder with thousands of gallons whooshing by and tremendous amounts of pressure being applied to the ladder structure. How can you not understand a shift in water pressure is enough to toss off an unsecured ff? Yeah, I know everyone *always* has their ladderbelt secured... right. What about, god forbid, there was a BLEVE or some other type of explosion which required a rapid withdrawal from a situation that was otherwise "safe?" Watch the movie... "BLEVE!" and you see it happen to the ff operating the pipe.
The point is, we don't live in an ideal world where everyone has a 2001 Pierce Dash Heavy Duty 100' Aerial truck. Reality is that you have firefighters using older equipment--sometimes safely, sometimes unsafely--and to me, I can't fathom increasing the risk in an already dicey situation. Why make something more dangerous than it needs to be?
I'll sound critical here, but in reality it's none of my business. Since you mentionned it though, I'm curious. The examples you list... a barn fire, and a mill fire... those were offensive attacks? Forgive me, but what were you saving in a dairy barn and a mill bordering on conflagration? Setting up a hoseline, pipe, etc, on a dry ladder was an offensive move? Isn't this a typical "surrounding and drowning" defensive attack? Maybe I am misunderstanding. I'm not questionning tactics or second-guessing, but let's call it for what it is. Was it worth the risk to the people at the tip? There wasn't a better (read SAFER) way to accomplish the desired (or the same) outcome? I'd like some good, clear, OFFENSIVE uses of non-preplumbed elevated master streams, and how having a ff at the tip saved the day. I find it hard to be offensive when you are operating at a fixed extension because of the hoseline and have to "baby" the controls to prevent lateral stress on the ladder.
The fact is, though, the incidents will still occur where knowingly or unknowingly, use of a ladder pipe will be abused. I say there shouldn't be an innocent ff on the ladder when that time comes. It's great if you can guarantee someone knows how to safely operate a department's 198X lightweight ladder. But assuming this, and letting Joe firefighter--with the best intentions in the world--up on the tip... I say why bother with the risk there? I am saying, that with the typical non-ultra modern ladders, manned ladder pipes are dangerous.
We run a new E-One platform with prepiped air (as required on a platform), prepiped waterway, etc. The ladder is heavy duty and is designed to support the waterway and its forces, the people, and the equipment.
I see manned ladder pipes in these situations as being a macho-firefighter thing to do, and one more example/holdover of our unsafe-but-fun historic operating practices, right up there with riding the tailboard, not using scba, and not wearing appropriate protective clothing.
Again, I'm not referring to modern apparatus with preplumbed waterways here, remote controls, thermal imaging cameras, etc. But with respect to these, if being perched aloft is so critical, why do we have ladder/nozzle controls at the pump panel, corded/cordless nozzle/ladder control, etc.? For bragging rights? Or do they serve a practical purpose? I think they serve to make the job safer.
Time will hopefully solve this problem though. The old ladder styles will rust away as the newer, stronger, and safer prepiped models with remote controls replace them. Just my thoughts. If I'm way off base here, please lemme know people.
Last edited by Resq14; 02-14-2002 at 04:50 AM.
02-14-2002, 10:49 AM #12
Couldn't have said it much better myself.Like the man said "Risk a lot to save a lot.Risk a little to save a little.Risk noone/nothing to save nothing".It takes a good Fire officer to make these kind of decisions.Mike Mcnamara was such an officer and he's been crucified/vilefied for a critical decision that saved many lives.Know when to say when,some of these deathtraps aren't worth risking your life for,stick or no stick.We've got a refurbished Am/can stick and when it's doing water tower ops,I want it as vertical as possible and as short as possible.That's where the strength in this particular ladder is.If you extend it and lay it down you WILL NOT get it back up,but it's tested and approved.There certainly has been positive developments in ladders/towers in the last ten years,maybe I'll live long enough to see a "real" stick here. T.C.
02-14-2002, 12:10 PM #13
- Join Date
- Mar 2001
- Sewell, NJ, USA
What about platforms? Roof ventilation? We routinely have two persons operating in the bucket of our 85 ft. platform for extended periods of time.
Just my $.50
02-14-2002, 02:13 PM #14
Good questions Resq...
I realize all ladders should always be operated within their limits. That's a nice fairy tale world to live in though. Reality is that people don't know, don't care, or forget.
Well, that's not a concern with the modern ladders.
Even our '76 had an over-ride -- you had to conciously press the big red button to go beyond the manufacturer's recommended extension at a give angle.
Ignorance of the law, whether statutes or physics, is no excuse.
Operating aerials safely is pretty simple -- every ladder I've seen at least has an inclinometer on it. Because people ignored them, now you have electronic inclinometers with interlocks.
But why risk it for something silly--yeah, i think it's silly to have someone perched on the top of a ladder with thousands of gallons whooshing by and tremendous amounts of pressure being applied to the ladder structure.
I think it's silly we run lights & sirens most of the time on our fire apparatus when 95% of the calls it will not make a significant difference.
Everything we do in the fire service has risks and benefits. I believe the slight risk from operating a certified ladder properly outweighs the dangers.
The examples you list... a barn fire, and a mill fire... those were offensive attacks? Forgive me, but what were you saving in a dairy barn and a mill bordering on conflagration?
Let's tackle the barn fire first. It was being used for storage. First question in my mind, what happened to cause a fire at noon time? Is there the body of a worker in there? Nope, can't save the life, but we could recover more of the body (From experience, finding a body mostly cremated is very tough). Second, preserve evidence for the Fire Marshals. Maybe the fire was purely accidental -- maybe the fire was accidental and the business was having financial difficulties. Maybe if you put the fire out as quickly as is safely possible you preserve the evidence of an electrical short so the Insurance company pays promptly and a local business doesn't go under. Maybe if you put the fire out as quickly as is safely possible you save the key bit of evidence that leads to an arson conviction.
The Mill fire is even more clear -- what we were saving was people's homes.
Offensive? Absolutely. Water was being put on the fire to actively put the fire out, not to do something that made you look good while waiting for the fire load to burn itself out.
A defensive attack on the Barn fire would've required a couple hundred GPM if that to wet down the exposures every so often. Barn would've burned itself out eventually when it ran out of fuel. Instead two lines were laid, and 2000+ gpm went onto the barn, and as much of the fire as we could was put out, not allowed to burn out.
As to how to be offensive, re-read my barn fire tactic. It was actively putting out fire -- speed isn't neccessarily the sole objective, but being effective is.
The point is, we don't live in an ideal world where everyone has a 2001 Pierce Dash Heavy Duty 100' Aerial truck
Hear you there. Started off on our '47 Seagraves. Used that until 1990 when we got the '76 Mack. This summer the '76 Mack moved two fire stations up the road.
It's great if you can guarantee someone knows how to safely operate a department's 198X lightweight ladder.
"This ladder should not be operated beyond 70% extension or below 70 degrees of elevation while flowing water." If someone can not remember that, they have no business driving a 40,000# + vehicle to the fire because obviously they can't be trusted to remember the rules of the road or the specific operation of that truck. If a department can not train their members to remember that one sentence, that department has no business operating ladder pipes.
I have some sympathy for "twisting" accidents when a ladder comes unexpectedly in contact with the building -- that can be a confusing situation, under extreme pressure to make rescues, and difficult for the operator to see the exact alignment. Deliberately resting the ladder tip on the building is still unacceptable, but accidently doing so can happen.
Setting up a ladder pipe is not that situation -- you can spot the apparatus in the best available location and know your reasonably safe following 70/70. There isn't an excuse for not knowing that, and there isn't a situation that you would truly need to violate it.
But with respect to these, if being perched aloft is so critical, why do we have ladder/nozzle controls at the pump panel, corded/cordless nozzle/ladder control, etc.?
'Cause you don't always need someone up there?
If you don't have a TIC/Camera you need eyeballs up there sometimes to accurately place the stream.
When you don't need the eyeballs up there, 'cause your purely defensive or your just wetting down the smouldering ruins, the remote controls are nice.
If your operating offensively to put the fire out, those eyeballs become critical.
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