Mike Wilbur
Aerial Operations Articles

Aerial Operations Articles


Michael Wilbur has been a career firefighter with the New York City Fire Department for 21 years, and is also a volunteer firefighter.In FDNY, Mike was assigned to Ladder Company 56 for 15 years 8 as an apparatus operator and in 1995 was promoted to the rank of Lt. and is presently assigned to Ladder Company 27 in the Bronx.

Lt. Wilbur also serves on the FDNY apparatus purchasing committee, and has given state certification to the FDNY chauffeurs school.

Mike is also a contributing editor for Firehouse Magazine and Fire Apparatus Journal.

He has also served on the IFSTA validation committees for the Apparatus Operator and Aerial Operator Manuals.

Lt. Wilbur in nationally recognized in Emergency Vehicle Operations, Apparatus Placement and Purchasing.

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Tom W. Shand is a forty year veteran of the fire service having started his career with the College Park, Maryland Fire Department in 1970 while attending the University of Maryland. Over the years he has served with departments in Pennsylvania and New York and is a nationally certified Level II Fire Service Instructor.

Tom is a senior partner with Emergency Vehicle Response located in Otisville, New York together with Lt. Mike Wilbur, FDNY (ret.) conducting apparatus and vehicle fleet assessments for fire departments across the United States. EVR provides fire protection engineering services for municipalities including the development of master plans, vehicle fleet replacement programs, preparation of vehicle specifications, bid analysis and in-process inspections of new apparatus.

His work career included time with the Public Protection Department of the Insurance Services Office and twenty five years in the fire apparatus industry working in various sales and engineering capacities. Tom currently assists the United States Navy Fire and Emergency Services with their fire apparatus procurement including the development of all technical specifications and final inspections for all vehicles including engines, trucks, ARFF and special service units.

Together with Mike Wilbur they write the Apparatus Architect articles in Firehouse Magazine for the past fourteen years and conduct seminars at national fire service training conferences. Tom is a contributing editor for Fire Apparatus Journal and writes a column for the Navy Fire and Emergency Services monthly newsletter. He has written several books covering the history of fire apparatus manufacturers Hahn Motors and Young Fire Equipment and the Syracuse, New York Fire Department.

Tom lives in Frederick County, Virginia with his wife Jacqueline and continues to expand his collection of fire apparatus history with emphasis on vehicle design and engine company operations.

  • Mike Wilbur: Aerial Apparatus Operational Footprint and Scrub AreaMike Wilbur: Aerial Apparatus Operational Footprint and Scrub Area
    When buying aerial apparatus, fire departments strive to purchase a vehicle that will at least serve 90 percent of the first- due response area, knowing that because of the size of aerial equipment today, it is not a one-size-fits-all proposition. Therefore, it becomes vitally important to determine the aerial apparatus operational footprint. What is the operational footprint? It is the area on the fireground the vehicle will occupy.  To calculate this space, the aerial apparatus must be set up with all jacks and outriggers fully deployed. Then the aerial device must be set up at a 90-degree angle to the chassis with the device at zero degrees of elevation. This is the most physical room the vehicle can occupy without extending the aerial device. If you drop the aerial device below zero degrees or you raise the aerial device above zero degrees of elevation, it will shrink the aerial apparatus footprint. To obtain the maximum apparatus operational footprint, measure from the side of the apparatus body out to the farthest point out to the aerial device–in many cases, probably the ladder pipe at the tip of the aerial or on the front of the platform in the case of an aerial tower or tower ladder (photo 1).  Then you must measure the width of the chassis best to do this at the rear by measuring the rear bumper (Photo 2). Now you measure the longest out board jack or outrigger (Photo 3). (1-3) Photos courtesy of author.     “The outboard side of the apparatus” is an interchangeable term and is used to describe the nonfire or nonworking side of the aerial apparatus. Now, add each of the values derived from the measurements taken. The sum equals the maximum operational footprint. If you have a four-section rear-mounted aerial ladder, you should have measurements somewhere between 40 feet and 42 feet. For a three-section, rear-mounted aerial tower, the measurement should be between 48 feet and 52 feet. The measurement for a five-section mid-mounted aerial tower should be between 36 feet and 40 feet. If you short jack the apparatus (not fully deploy the outboard or nonfire side jacks or outriggers) (photo 4), you will arrive at the minimum operational foot print. (4) What practical application would this information have on the fireground? If you had a two-story row of stores on Main Street, U.S.A., on fire and you wanted to use your aerial device as an offensive weapon in this fight, you could measure the distance between the stores on opposite sides of the street, including the street itself, and compare them with the apparatus measurements you obtained, you would soon learn whether your aerial device will fit on the Main Street in your town. The scrub area is defined as that area of the fire building that can be touched with the platform basket from a tower ladder or the tip of an aerial ladder. With the exception of large cities such as New York, Boston, Los Angles, Phoenix, Houston, so on, most urban / suburban fire departments use their aerial devices more in a horizontal plane than in ...
    Aerial and Elevating Platform apparatus of all kinds represent some of the most expensive pieces of equipment that we operate in the fire service. Yet, at the same time it tends to be the most under utilized and misunderstood piece of equipment in our firefighting arsenal. Training and education are the keys to reversing this trend. It is in that spirit that this article, the first in a series on this subject, is published for your review. The strength of an aerial ladder and where it can operate on the fire ground (i.e. horizontal or vertical or both) is dependent on a lot of factors… the type of material, it’s strength and the way the structure was designed and assembled (riveted, bolted, or welded) . That, plus the weight of the unit and the jack spread will ultimately determine the tip load of the Aerial ladder you purchase. Aerial ladders have tip loads at 0 degrees that range from no load; (most pre 1991 aerial apparatus) all the way up to 1,000 lbs. Prior to 1991 most aerial ladders that were built to the N.F.P.A. 1901 standard were rated at 0 tip load, unsupported at zero degrees. From that point on aerial ladders built after 1991 were designed to have a minimum rating of 250 lb. at the tip from any angle between zero degrees and maximum angle at full extension. Photo #1 from the Authors collection Photo #2 by Pictured is a pre-1991 aerial ladder with a 200 lb. vertical tip load (Photo # 1). In 1991 the N.F.P.A. 1901 standard was revised and up graded which caused manufacturers to change their aerial ladder design. This photo (Photo # 2) represents some of those changes which brought the apparatus tip load up to 250 lbs. on this 100’ rear mounted aerial ladder. Note: The tandem axle chassis and the different stabilizers that helped improve apparatus stability and safety. Photo’s from the author’s collection. Photo # 3 depicts a medium duty, 500 lb. tip load aerial ladder. Note the addition of another set of outriggers that appear before the tandem axles. Pictured in the bottom (photo # 4) is a 1000 lb. tip load aerial ladder. Note the difference in which the outriggers span the body vs. the 500 lb. tip load ladder in the previous picture. Photo’s from the author’s collection The pre-1991 light duty aerial ladder pictured (Photo # 5) was not designed to be used in a horizontal position. Note the tremendous bow in the ladder. This ladder is in danger of a catastrophic failure. The medium duty ladder pictured (Photo # 6) above was meant be operated at the horizontal and even at a negative degree of elevation off the side of the truck. However with the positive tip load improvements come some operational impediments. Note the deployment of the outriggers on the heavy duty aerial ladder at this common suburban / urban setting and the way that the street is completely blocked off (Photo # 7). Photo by the author While manufacturers have dramatically improved ladder load capacities, stability, ...

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