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  1. #1
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    Default Wooden ladders in San Francisco

    An interesting article about the shop in San Francisco that makes wooden ladders for the fire department there...

    http://sfgate.com/cgi-bin/article.cg...AGELQL66L1.DTL

    Has some photos, too.


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    deleted by user
    Last edited by superchef; 08-11-2007 at 08:12 PM.

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    Forum Member Res343cue's Avatar
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    Very nice article. It's good to see the traditions kept alive.
    Quote Originally Posted by ThNozzleMan
    Why? Because we are firemen. We are decent human beings. We would be compelled by the overwhelming impulse to save an innocent child from a tragic, painful death because in the end, we are MEN.

    I A C O J
    FTM-PTB


    Honorary Disclaimer: While I am a manufacturer representative, I am not here to sell my product. Any advice or knowledge shared is for informational purposes only. I do not use Firehouse.Com for promotional purposes.

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    Very good article. Been to S.F. a few times and stopped in a few firehouses. All great guys.

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    Forum Member CaptOldTimer's Avatar
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    We used Duo Safety Wooden Truss and Solid Beam ground ladders for years. Back in 1995, we switch to all Aluminum ground ladders. I still like the wooden ladders, as I always felt safer using them in and around electrical lines. They never got hot from being out in the sun at incidents like the aluminum ladders do.

    Duo Safety no longer has the wooden ladders available, only parts for them.

    Stay Safe and Well Out There....

    Always remembering 9-11-2001 and 343+ Brothers

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    We recently bought a full set for our Model A from http://www.michiganladder.com/

    They are supposed to be the oldest wooden ladder co. in the US.

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    What a great article. I enjoy reading about how depts. keep firefighting traditions alive. Thanks

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    Iron Lungs and Wooden Ladders!

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    Great article. It seems the shop foreman is concerned with future personel stepping in to continue the work. I hope this is not like some other arts/crafts and is allowed to die away.

    Keep up the good work.

    T.J.

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    Forum Member CaptOldTimer's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by waterboy1 View Post
    We recently bought a full set for our Model A from http://www.michiganladder.com/

    They are supposed to be the oldest wooden ladder co. in the US.
    Is this a Fire Ladder maker company? I looked at their site and all I saw was commerical type ladders. Fire Department ladders are usually made from Douglas Fir and not Pine as this company makes their ladders from. I don't think that they meet the NFPA Standards for ground ladders.
    Stay Safe and Well Out There....

    Always remembering 9-11-2001 and 343+ Brothers

  11. #11
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    Guess I will be the typical non-traditionalist here, again. Wooden ladders are nice until you throw them. And do it all day long. You will feel it in your back even if youre in excellent shape. Most guys prefer not to trai too much with them.

    Towards the end of training, you will ask yourself if keeping the tradition is worth the back pain and your career.

    And the maintenance. Wooden ladders require a lot of maintence. (as stated in the article) Sure, its easy to drop them off to some city worker when you dont have to do it yourself. The stripping off of varnish in all of the little places take lots and lot and lots of time.

    And the "dogs" do not automaticlly lock in. Another step to take place when raising the fly section.

    I have been using aluminum ladders for years with no problems before going to wood. When it comes down to it, I have seen more FFs go out on back injury than electrocution.
    Last edited by CALFFBOU; 06-27-2007 at 12:02 PM.

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    Quote Originally Posted by CALFFBOU View Post
    Guess I will be the typical non-traditionalist here, again. Wooden ladders are nice until you throw them. And do it all day long. You wll feel itin your back no matter how in good shape you are.

    Towards the end of training, you will ask yourself if keep the tradition is worth tha back pain.

    And the maintenance. Wooden ladders require a lot of maintence. Sure, its easy to drop them off to some city worker when you dont have to do it yourself. The stripping off of varnish in all of the little places.

    And the "dogs" do not automaticlly lock in. Another step to take place when raising the fly section.

    When it comes down to it, I have seen more FFs go out on back injury that ladder electrocution.
    Didn't John Mittendorf prove that wooden ladders are not appricably heavier than metal or fiberglass. And in many cases actually weigh less!

    Oh and by the way...I don't know any men who would prefer death over a disablity retirement for back problems.

    Fireman 1st Grade Russell Linneball
    Ladder Co. 17
    Died 10-29-1974
    Electrocuted-Rail Road Overhead-11000 Volts-Willis Avenue & E. 132nd Street

    Fireman 1st Grade Johnny Williams
    Ladder Co. 17
    Died 10-29-1974
    Electrocuted-Rail Road Overhead-11000 Volts-Willis Avenue & E. 132nd Street


    We haven't had wooden ladders around here for some time...however if the city was concerned about buying the best product and not saving a buck we'd probably had them all along.

    FTM-PTB
    Last edited by FFFRED; 06-27-2007 at 10:45 AM.

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    [QUOTE=FFFRED;828700]Didn't John Mittendorf prove that wooden ladders are not appricably heavier than metal or fiberglass. And in many cases actually weigh less!

    That he did! I am not that familiar with the ladders used by the California departments. I would imagine that they are using those make in the bay area as the article indicated.

    I know that we compared ground ladders made by Duo Safety, wooden truss vs. aluminum each size and type against the comparable ladders and actually the wooden truss ladder was the lightest!

    Bou, I guess you get use to what the department is using when you come on the job and go with that. It is like we ran all open cabs for years before the city bought closed cabs apparatus. Everyone bitched that they couldnít see out of the cab. I too agreed that it was a change in operating the ride. A ladder truck had always been easy to spot the building and place the fifth wheel with an open cab than a closed one.

    But, we had to learn over again and practice makes perfect, as so I have been told by a wife or two!
    Stay Safe and Well Out There....

    Always remembering 9-11-2001 and 343+ Brothers

  14. #14
    Permanently Removed CALFFBOU's Avatar
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    Pointing out 2 deaths from 1974 and say JM said they were lighter really doesnt bring it home much for me.

    Which ladders are you guys using? Have you tried both or just running with the fuzzyness of the article?

    Please do me a favor first- Go throw the wooden ladders for awhile, learn to loo up for wires too. (Its not hard)

    Then spend most of the day stripping and maintaining them. Watch how the crew members slowly slip away after being gloved up with thinner on a 35 footer.

    Bottom line- The maintenance and the extra weight to throw one gets old. I did alum. ladders years before going to wood and never had a problem or got zapped.

    Much like the leather helmet, I compare and test both items first before I spout out.

    Anyone else out there actually throw wooden ladders before or just jumping on the "warm and fuzzy" bandwagon?

    PS- Oldtimer- I too first got my start on an open cab Crown. Then moved into a closed cab Seagrave. I was so young, dumb and full of *** at the time, I didnt know the difference when screaming down the road code 3.
    Last edited by CALFFBOU; 06-27-2007 at 11:55 AM.

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    Quote Originally Posted by CALFFBOU View Post
    Pointing out 2 deaths from 1974 and say JM said they were lighter really doesnt bring it home much for me.
    Wow, I guess since they died in '74 and not 2004 their lives weren't worth a sh*t and their families don't miss them?

    Thank god they didn't retire with back problems...

    Here is John Mittendorfs (a Left coast man himself) research:

    The following chart that has been assembled from manufacturers' catalogs

    Ladders.....Wood........Metal. ......Fiberglass
    16' straight.....52#......56#.......37#
    20' straight.....65#.....65#........50#
    12' extension...34#.....29-48#....45-69#
    24' extension...110#....75-142#...99-133#
    10' roof..........30#.......24-40#....30#
    16' roof...........48#.......44-56#....42-46#

    So depending on what your dept purchases...you might have actually increased your weight despite that you think you are being "progressive".

    Anyone else do some reasearch before attacking the big & bad "T" word?

    FTM-PTB
    Last edited by FFFRED; 06-27-2007 at 11:34 AM.

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    FFFRed-

    -The 1974 deaths do mean something. But your data is over 30 years old. Anything else more current? If I used 30+ year old data, you guys would clown me for it as well.

    -I noticed in your comparison chart it says "metal" and not "aluminum". And in some cases, the "metal" ladders are lighter in the range of numbers. So, no numbers are concrete, just a broad span?

    -And- Do YOU or have YOU thrown wooden ladders yet? One of the more very most traditional FDs in the bay area, Oakland has mostly fiberglass and some wooden ladders on their rigs. I havent heard them complain about the fiberglass yet. And I admit, I havent tried them yet mysefl.

    Lastly, I am NOT anti tradition. I am for what works best for the job. And like to compare product X vs. Y.
    Last edited by CALFFBOU; 06-27-2007 at 11:54 AM.

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    The new ALACO wooden ladders are heavier than aluminum but probably comparable to fiberglass. They are also heavier than the old DUO SAFETY wooden ladders.

    Wooden ladders are simply more stable and safer to work from than aluminum.

    Sorry Bou but I disagree with you on this one.

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    Quote Originally Posted by CALFFBOU View Post
    FFFRed-

    -The 1974 deaths do mean something. But your data is over 30 years old. Anything else more current? If I used 30+ year old data, you guys would clown me for it as well.
    I don't think LODDs are irrelevant(to a discussion such as this, as no LODD is ever irrelevant) unless they deal with getting ran over by the Steamer or kicked by the horses...etc.

    These men had metal ladders that contacted power lines...wood or fiberglass might have prevented this. I find it surprising that guys who are all over the safety bandwaggon don't jump all over this issue.

    I guess safety is ok unless it makes my back ache. (while you are working out your neck muscles to wear my leather helmet you can work on your lower back to lift a safer ladder as well! )

    -I noticed in your comparison chart it says "metal" and not "aluminum". And in some cases, the "metal" ladders are lighter in the range of numbers. So, no numbers are concrete, just a broad span?
    Those are Mittendorfs numbers he obtained from manufactures catologues. I've always heard of three categories of ladders...wood, metal and fiberglass. Aluminum is part of the metal category and yes there are some that are heaiver and some that are lighter...the point is that overall you might not have actually reduced your weight by switching.

    -And- Do YOU or have YOU thrown wooden ladders yet? One of the more very most traditional FDs in the bay area, Oakland has mostly fiberglass and some wooden ladders on their rigs. I havent heard them complain about the fiberglass yet. And I admit, I havent tried them yet mysefl.
    I've thrown a few but not on the fireground. They are heavy...but as shown by Mittendorf...they aren't much different than metal.

    And is the difference in a few pounds not worth the additional safety margin? If we had them I wouldn't mind in the least...however I'm in the engine and we don't use portable ladders much in my neighborhood to begin with.

    Lastly, I am NOT anti tradition. I am for what works best for the job. And like to compare product X vs. Y.
    FTM-PTB
    Last edited by FFFRED; 06-27-2007 at 12:22 PM.

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    FFFRED- I do work out my back as well as my neck. As stated before, I try out things BEFORE opening up my mouth. I like to see what works best.

    Again, if you havent used wooden ladders on a constant basis, then our expereinces are different.

    Use them both and compare. Look up for wires like I do and dont get juiced.

    Its all worked for me.

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    A BC from SoCal once told me that one of the reasons they still use wooden ladders is because they're heavier, and that they weed the weaklings out during the physical agility and the academy.

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