Original post found at: http://www.fireapparatusmagazine.com/articles/2016/10/cantankerous-wisdom-october-2016.html
By Bill Adams
It feels good to be exonerated for having a traditional belief. It doesn’t happen often. Over the years, topics at the raisin squad’s morning coffee included ladder trucks and ground ladders. A conversation’s depth and scope depended on the age, memory span, and whether the white hairs that morning took their meds. We’ve criticized the young guys who never heard of pompier ladders or 50-foot bangors and castigated manufacturers who put roofs on ladder trucks. We argued whether wood or fiberglass ground ladders were better and ridiculed anyone believing ladder towers are better than straight sticks. Blood was nearly drawn during a midmount vs. rear-mount aerial debate. Pros and cons have been given for quads, quints, snorkels, squrts, and city service ladders. We just can’t remember half of them.
Recently, some geezers and actives were discussing ground ladders on quints. It wasn’t about the type or what they’re made of but how many to carry and throw at fires. I believe it’s irrelevant if you are forced to or want to operate a quint. My biased opinion is that it should carry enough ladders on it to accomplish its primary mission when functioning as a ladder truck. I don’t care if it has a pump or not—just make sure there are enough ladders. My opinion is based on experience in several departments with sizeable numbers of large two- and 2½-story wood frame houses, congested streets, trees, and overhead wires. The old-timers always preached to have a second means of egress from a roof and to throw a ladder to the second floor on all four sides of the structure—if physically possible.
A couple of us saw a new quint (again—not my favorite type of ladder truck) at a local equipment show. It was a 100-foot rear-mount. Ground ladders included a 10-foot folding; two 35-foot two-section extensions; two 28-foot two-section extensions; a 24-foot two-section extension and 18-, 16-, and 14-foot roof ladders for a total of 208 feet. Regardless of having engine company stuff on it, it was a kick-butt ladder (truck) company. The ground ladder debate was reignited the next morning. Wrinkle squad comments are italicized.
The center compartment holds two 35-ft and two 28-ft two-section extension ladders, a folding ladder, and pike poles. A 24-ft two-section extension and a 16-foot roof ladder slide out the right rear. A hose chute is on the left side. The 14-and 18-foot roof ladders are mounted on the outside of the aerial’s base section.
I said that a quint replacing a rig that carries a certain amount of ground ladders to meet specific hazards in its district should also carry the same number of ladders. “You don’t need lots of ground ladders on a quint.” A heated conversation resulted for those who could still hear and remembered how to throw ground ladders. I said that the National Fire Protection Association (NFPA) only requires a folding ladder and a single extension and roof ladder on a quint but real ladder trucks require two extension ladders and two roof ladders. “You only have to follow the NFPA minimum.” I said to screw the NFPA’s minimum if it isn’t enough to do the job. “If there ain’t enough people to throw ladders, why bother carrying them?” I countered that late arriving apparatus can supply manpower to throw ladders. “Let’em bring their own ladders.” If ladders are on the first-due ladder company, they’ll be close to the scene to access. “They should bring enough people to carry them.”
They were winning and they knew it. I said that it might be physically impossible to use an aerial. “Have a better driver training program.” Exasperated, I tried to make the point of firefighter safety by saying a ladder should be thrown to the second floor on all sides of a house in case firefighters have to bail out. “They shouldn’t put themselves in that position.” It was a no-win situation, so I changed the subject to purchasing ladder trucks. It was a mistake.
I said that some departments are buying less expensive and smaller sized single-axled quints with fewer compartments, fewer ground ladders, less carrying capacity, and lighter tip loads. But, they expect the same performance and capabilities as their existing ladder trucks. “Less money makes sense; ladder trucks cost too much today.” “They carry too much stuff on them anyhow.” I said that if a district has the same multistory buildings, overhead wires, trees and congested streets, why purchase a rig with fewer ground ladders than have been proven needed and used before. I got more excuses. “Smaller rigs can get around the district better.” “Besides, nobody has fires anymore.” But, the same hazards are still there. “It doesn’t matter. It’s easier to teach drivers a smaller truck. And, the new kids don’t realize how important laddering a building is.” I said what if they really need ground ladders in an emergency? “It won’t be their fault. They’ll point a finger at someone else—maybe the salesman. He sold it; blame him.” Another raisin: “Don’t worry about it; you’re a white hair too. You’re too old to worry about driving or throwing ladders. Besides, it’s not your turn anymore.” Ouch—that hurt.
Access ladders to the turntable are angle-mounted at the rear on each side. Note the recessed LDH connection at the rear center. I believe the rear out-and-down jacks have a 16-foot spread.
I couldn’t let it go. The next morning, I showed them copies of NFPA 1901, Standard for Automotive Fire Apparatus, to prove my point. Sentence 188.8.131.52 says that the 85 feet of ladders a quint must carry shall include one extension, one roof, and one folding ladder. I said that’s useless. They weren’t impressed. Sentences 184.108.40.206 and 220.127.116.11 about ladder trucks say that a minimum of 115 feet shall include the folding ladder, two roof and two extension ladders. I said they used to call for four extension ladders and listed the sizes. They don’t even recommend the sizes anymore. “Who cares?” I tried to tell them the appendix describes what the ladders “can be.” “We told you—no one throws ground ladders anymore.” End of discussion.
Back to the new quint at the equipment show. I mentioned to one fellow, who I think was a white coat in the department that bought the rig, that you don’t often see five extension ladders on a quint. He said they responded to a house fire last year and I can’t remember if he said it was in his district or not. Regardless, it was a worker in a big 2½-story home set back from the road where an aerial couldn’t reach it. He was in the rear sector and he told a crew to, “Grab another 35-footer.” A firefighter looked at him and said, “We only have one.” In my mind, I was vindicated. Traditionalism finally wins.
It has three low crosslays about 60 inches from ground level, an on-board foam system with a 30-gallon tank, a generator, 470-gallon booster tank, a 2,000-gpm, large-size gauges on a well laid out pump panel, prepiped ladder pipe,and lots of compartmentation. The forward jacks angle down, requiring less room on the fireground.
And, I got another chance to beat the dying horse at morning coffee. I relayed the story and showed the squad another sentence from the appendix. A.18.104.22.168 says, “The fire department should study its needs for ground ladders, evaluating which ladders will be arriving at a fire scene with pumpers as well as aerial fire apparatus. Many communities have multiple three- and four-story buildings around which a power-operated aerial device cannot be positioned and that require longer or additional extension ladders to support fire-fighting operations. However, it should be recognized that as requirements for additional ground ladders are added, space for other equipment can become limited.”
“You’re preaching to the wrong choir.” Then they started talking about the problems with denture adhesives, who sells the cheapest hearing aids, the latest obituaries in the paper, and what the early bird special was at the restaurant that night. I went home. It was almost nap time, and white hairs tire easily.
BILL ADAMS is a member of the Fire Apparatus & Emergency Equipment editorial advisory board, a former fire apparatus salesman, and a past chief of the East Rochester (NY) Fire Department. He has 50 years of experience in the volunteer fire service.