AERIAL OPERATIONS FOR LOW-RISE BUILDINGS

BY DREW SMITH AND DAVID TRAIFOROS

Is your aerial a very expensive taxi or a tool? How does your aerial support your operation? Are aerial placement and staffing part of your plan? When you hear someone say, “truck work,” do you think of search and rescue or hand tool operations such as forcible entry, ventilation, and overhaul, or do you integrate the aerial operation into those functions?

Early spotting and positioning are key to a successful operation regardless of whether the fire is held to a first alarm or necessitates multiple alarms. If the first-arriving engine does not think about the first-arriving truck, the operation may begin to fail before anyone gets started. The first-arriving truck must think of what its strategy and tactics objectives are specific to what is observed on arrival and what the incident commander is reporting. If the aerial is not placed in the appropriate position early in the operation, it may be impossible to reposition it after other first-alarm companies have taken up positions around the fire building.

POSITIONING CONSIDERATIONS

 

Aerial Reach

This is an important consideration. The two common types of aerials are the mid-ship and rear-mount ladder, or platform, which are manufactured in a variety of configurations. Articulating booms are also available, but they are not addressed in this article. Determine what part of the building your aerial can reach and scrub. Aerial reach is generally rated and advertised as the maximum vertical reach at the 75° climbing angle.

What about horizontal reach? Look at the aerial manufacturer’s sweep graph. Exactly how far horizontally can the tip or basket reach? How far is it from the curb to the face of most houses or apartments in residential neighborhoods? What about the reach in parking lots that are filled with cars, factory and school sites, and other one- and two-story buildings? How much reach will you lose by trying to raise and extend the aerial over the cab if your aerial is a rear mount? If it is a mid-ship aerial, how much will you lose by trying to raise and extend the aerial over the rear end? There are distinct advantages related to aerial reach and placement for mid-ship and rear-mount aerials. It is your job to know the advantages and the disadvantages of the unit you have or intend to purchase.

Vehicle Preparation

Effective application of the aerial begins with vehicle preparation. Every operator should have intimate knowledge of the manufacturer operator’s manual. If you do not have one, check the apparatus file or the chief’s office, where manuals are generally stored. It may be possible to obtain one from the manufacturer, but this sometimes is difficult because manufacturers are constantly upgrading and revising their products and may not always have a manual for a specific apparatus model/year on hand.

Become familiar with all cab; turntable; and aerial tip, platform, or basket controls-know their purpose and how to use them.

Plan for Proper Aerial Use

Remember the acronym RECEO? It stands for Rescue, Exposures, Confinement, Extinguish, and Overhaul-our fireground priorities. An aerial arriving at a fire should be used to support the operation. Overall strategy and tactics at every structure fire should include proper placement and use of the aerial. Preplanning and standard operating procedures (SOPs) or guidelines (SOGs) must include the key concepts of aerial placement and operation based on occupancy and construction type.

From which station(s) do your engine and truck companies respond-from the same station or separate ones? Which will arrive first? Is that affected by geography or travel time? How many trucks respond on the initial alarm-one, two, or none? Regardless of the arrival order, each unit, not just the truck, needs to be positioned with consideration for the other. The first-arriving units of departments that do not have an aerial responding on the initial alarm must consider aerial placement; otherwise, an aerial requested later may not be able to access the fire.

Arrival order should also dictate the tasks or functions the crew will perform. The aerial vehicle should support these tasks. For the aerial to support the tasks, it must be properly placed and spotted. The first-arriving aerial should be positioned for rescue. Where the aerial should be positioned will be determined by the type of structure and occupancy. If rescue is not an issue because the fire is too far advanced and the incident commander is operating in a defensive mode, aerial placement should focus on aerial stream deployment and exposure protection, with the aerial outside the collapse zone.

In many cases, a pumper is the first unit to arrive and go to work. Unless SOPs dictate otherwise, it is common for the pumper to arrive just ahead of the aerial, even when both units respond at the same time from the same quarters. The driver of a pumper must consider that the aerial needs to be placed to reach the building. The pumper can usually lay a line several hundred feet; the aerial’s reach, particularly horizontally, is limited to 100 feet or less in most cases.

THE MOST TRADITIONAL ROLE OF THE AERIAL ON THE FIREGROUND

What is the most traditional, most thought-of role for the aerial on the fireground for your department? Rescue? Ventilation? Fire stream application? The odds are that not all members have the same vision unless your department has a clear and simple guideline AND the officers who subscribe to it train its members on it. What should the role be?

If we look back a little more than 100 years, the aerial ladder was used mainly for rescue, for accessing upper floors and the roof. The water tower applied elevated streams. In the 1930s, aluminum alloy replaced wood in aerial ladder construction. This change allowed the water tower to be combined with the aerial ladder into a single apparatus, merging the rescue/ventilation and elevated stream functions into a single apparatus.


(1) This is an early 20th-century water tower, the basis for the prepiped aerial. Note the absence of the ladder, as aerial ladders and water towers were clearly separate functions during this time. (Photo by Steve Redick.)

Combining the aerial ladder and water tower into a single vehicle led to the development of several types and configurations of aerial apparatus. Over the next three decades, fire departments could choose from straight aerial ladders in lengths of from 50 to more than 100 feet often without a prepiped waterway. Stabilizers (or outriggers or downriggers) may be of an “H” or “A” configuration and may be a single or double pair or a combination of the two. Telescoping booms outfitted with a platform or a basket are also available in a variety of lengths, with most, if not all, having the prepiped waterway as an integral part of the design. Some manufacturers offered the articulating boom in lengths of from 50 to well over 100 feet. One major change for all aerials in the second half of the 20th century was the introduction of the rear-mounted aerial. Until this development, the turntable of all aerials was generally located immediately behind the driver, since early apparatus did not have a cab, let alone a crew area.

With the combining of functions and features came the potential for confusion relative to a company’s role and priorities. Although truck/tower/ladder company personnel must know their job and apparatus in detail, all firefighters must have a general understanding of how the aerial is integrated not only into truck company functions but also into the overall coordinated fire attack at various types of buildings.

What is the history of aerial apparatus in your department? What was the original intention? Are there any lessons learned about your current or past aerials that may influence future purchases or, more importantly, tactics at future fires? What is the main function of the aerial? Is it to be part of a coordinated fire attack and support the offensive strategy? The key here is knowing in what mode the incident commander is operating. Are you at an offensive or defensive fire? With that known, the main function of the truck becomes clear: Offensive equals rescue; defensive equals elevated streams. Now, some will say that is too simple.

To use a football analogy, all the team members (firefighters) on the field (at the fire) must know where to line up on the line of scrimmage and then how and where to move once the ball is snapped. After the snap and initial scramble, the players must be able to read the other side’s reaction and respond. In the fire service, that is the reason SOPs or SOGs are so important: We must anticipate that certain events are likely to occur based on building type and past experience. If you have little experience, you need to learn from others (members of your departments or neighboring departments, speakers, or writers) through their stories or by reading articles or watching videos.

SOPs/SOGs should be reasonable and based on your response area, both first-due and second-due districts. Besides past experience and building type, other factors play a significant role.

STANDARD BUILDING TYPES

The National Fire Protection Association (NFPA) lists five construction and 12 occupancy types. That is all well and good; but when dealing with one- and two-story buildings, there are seven general building types that affect aerial placement and can challenge the fire suppression operation: houses, multiple-family dwellings, strip malls, taxpayers, industrial or commercial buildings, big-box stores, and schools/churches.

Houses

Many departments do not engage in aerial operations at fires in private, single-family, or multiple dwellings. That should change. The aerial can greatly enhance a coordinated attack in several ways. Unfortunately, if the aerial’s spotting and placement are not routine practices based on standard procedures or guidelines, the usual result is that the aerial is not in the proper location and cannot be moved there because other units have responded and occupy the place the aerial should have assumed automatically on its arrival.

On residential streets with one- and two-family private dwellings, lot width is a critical factor. Knowing standard lot widths and average apparatus lengths will allow you to make better placement decisions. For instance, the average rear-mount 100-foot aerial (straight ladder or tower) will be about 40 to 45 feet long. If you are in an area of 50-foot lots, your cab had better be centered on exposure B or D if you want the turntable near the center of the fire building. If the lots are 100 feet wide, then the cab should stop short of the lot line of the fire building. Wider lot widths and driveways more than 100 feet long present other challenges.

At some point, hopefully sooner rather than later, you will take your aerial to one of these neighborhoods, attempt placement, and raise the stick or tower to see what you can get at. Also, you will determine how your outriggers/stabilizers fit in with the geographic and environmental conditions present. How is the on-street parking? Is there a lot or a little? Is parking allowed overnight? How high are the curbs, or are the shoulders unimproved? What surface encumbrances such as signs, manholes, trees, and lampposts are present?

One- and one and one-half-story houses. Don’t rule out the use of the aerial. Although roof work can be accomplished with ground ladders and it is highly unlikely that the aerial will be needed for rescue, it may very well be useful as an elevated stream for fire attack or exposure protection.

Two-story, more than two-story, or split-level houses. Smaller departments do not use the aerial often for these types of houses. However, new large homes with pitched roofs and nine- to 10-foot-high ceilings can make a two-story house as much as 10 feet taller than a similar home built 30 years ago, making the newer home well suited to aerial use. Two and one-half- and three-story homes built more than 100 years ago also are ideal candidates for aerial use.

Row or town homes. Tactics for these building are limited by access to the B and D sides unless they are end units at a street intersection. If possible, it may be wise to have a second aerial report to the rear and cover that half of the building. Separation between buildings may be as little as a walkway a few feet wide, or it may be nonexistent. In these cases, positioning must take into consideration the possibility that exposures B and D will become involved with fire and would affect any aerial positioned too close.

The key with all houses is not to discount the aerial as a valuable tool. Position it so it can be used on every alarm, even the routine “smells and bells” calls that many firefighters consider a nuisance.

Multiple-Family Dwellings

Complexes that are two or three stories, with or without garden apartments, that spread out horizontally, such as apartments and motels, are included in this category. Many fireground action photos show examples of aerial operations at large multiple-dwelling complexes. A good number of them indicate that the aerial’s operating position was apparently not well thought out or part of an SOP/SOG. The aerial is of great value at these buildings. But again, if the aerial’s spotting and placement are not routine practices based on standard procedures or guidelines, the usual result is that it is not in the appropriate location and cannot be moved to that location because other units have responded and are occupying the place the aerial should have automatically assumed on its arrival. An extra minute spent on positioning will pay huge dividends toward suppressing the fire.

Because of the usual small size of individual apartments, it is rarely necessary to position the turntable directly in line with the unit on fire. In these structures, the aerial should be positioned, when possible, on the side of the fire that has the most structure to lose. For example, if the building is eight units wide and the fire is in the apartment second from the end, position the aerial on the side of the fire unit with the six apartments. Fire, smoke, wind conditions, and the presence of a drivable surface will affect your ability to do this, but you must consult maps and tap your previous knowledge of the complex. Often, the most direct route may not lead to the best position, and only a conscious decision will allow you to make a better placement.

An apartment building two or more stories in height and a single unit wide also rarely needs the aerial to be positioned in front of the building. It is usually best to position the aerial off a corner to allow for better roof access and exposure protection. If there is a second aerial, it can be positioned on the opposite corner to maximize coverage. Ideally, this would be the C/D corner if the first truck is on the A/B corner. Most of the time, it would have to be the A/D corner. In all cases when the structure is relatively narrow and side-to-side reach is not necessary, the aerial may be able to reach over an engine and perform its tasks.

Strip Malls

Many single-story strip malls extend horizontally for hundreds of feet. Newer strip malls tend to have extremely tall parapets on the front. In these situations, the aerial should be positioned to scrub two sides of the building so firefighters can access the roof safely and so an elevated stream, if needed, can be applied. If there is a single aerial on the initial alarm, which is not uncommon, that aerial rarely should go to the front; it should go to the B, C, or D side so it can best access the roof.

There is a tendency for newer and older strip malls to have a traffic lane immediately in front of the stores. This arrangement can cause firefighters and officers to position the aerial too close and within the collapse zone. It can also trap apparatus and prevent repositioning because of fleeing customers and their private autos attempting to leave the parking area. Preplanning by first-due companies should focus on where companies should position to meet their needs (including placement of a tower ladder bucket to apply its master stream through the front windows of the stores) while in a safe location.

Older strip malls may have limited parking in the front and may be relatively close to the street. In these cases, it may be best to have the aerial (and perhaps the engine) position on the street, provided the aerial can reach the structure. Again, preplanning is key in these situations.

Taxpayers

In this article, we define a taxpayer as a two-story building with one or more first-floor commercial occupancies and one or more second-floor residential or office occupancies. A taxpayer may be more than two stories, but this article is focusing on one- and two-story types.

Similar to the strip mall, the taxpayer adds the element that overnight occupants may be trapped in the residence(s). The separation between these buildings may be similar to that of the row houses, and positioning must take into consideration the possibility that exposures B and D will also become involved with fire and would affect any aerial positioned too close. Positioning should focus on supporting the rescue function followed by roof work and then fire suppression. Rarely is it possible to relocate a positioned apparatus at a fire, so initial positioning should try to support as many functions as possible. While the crew works on rescue, perhaps the aerial operator cab prepares for an elevated stream.

Industrial or Commercial Buildings, Big-Box Stores, Schools, Churches

The aerial can greatly assist suppression at fires in these structures. Aerials provide stable work platforms and reliable means of access and egress. It also offers a highly mobile master stream that can be used to knock down large volumes of fire in an offensive attack to any level of the structure, even the ground level (depending on the manufacturer’s specifications).


(2) The corner setup at this commercial building not only allowed coverage of two sides of the building (sides A and B), but it also placed the vehicle in a position less prone to the effects of structural collapse. This off-the-rear approach also allows the complete length of the aerial to be used instead of clearing over the cab. (Photo by Steve Redick.)

Factors other than construction and occupancy that affect aerial placement include curves in the roadway, sloped or crowned roadways, the width of the roadway, and parked autos and trucks. Some areas present all these challenges; only a few may affect your operation. The key here is to know what challenges affect your first- and second-due areas where the aerial will be expected to operate.


(3) When possible, choose the side with the most exposures to save. In this case, there is no exposure on side D while there is on side A. Corner setup on this narrow commercial keeps the aerial out of the collapse zone and allows for access to two sides as well as the exposure. (Photo by Steve Redick.)

On arrival, you cannot repave the road or lay a different route. Rarely will an early-arriving parked aerial be able to reposition once other units have arrived, positioned, and deployed hoselines. Where you stop when you arrive usually dictates where you must operate from for the duration of the incident. Therefore, you had better make sure you stop where you need to be. If you don’t, rest assured someone else will let you know of your shortcomings.

Can your aerial operate in the short-jacked position? If yes, do you know the requirements for operating it in the short-jacked position? Have you drilled on short-jacking your aerial? Do you know when you may need to short-jack? At fires in one- and two-story buildings, short-jacking may be needed in tight parking lots or streets lined with cars. It may be needed when a manhole, tree, or utility pole is encountered.


(4) This is short-jacking, the less-than-full extension and then setting of the stabilizer on the left or the right side, or both sides. Short-jacking may be necessary when faced with narrow or poor pavement or surface obstacles such as autos or manholes. Rotation interlocks should prohibit swinging the aerial off the short-jacked side(s). Never perform a short-jack operation without first consulting the manufacturer’s operating procedures and then practicing them. (Photo by Drew Smith.)

Are you and a crew member able to inch the aerial forward to line up the stabilizer jacks or turntable with an opening between two parked cars, two buildings with minimal separation between them, or two trees? Positioning must be maximized using these techniques. You cannot simply place the aerial in a “good enough” location and hope or wish the required tasks can be accomplished. Again, take out the aerial, find challenging locations, and drill on placement.

LADDER FOR RESCUE

Turntable placement is the key to who will be able to be rescued. If the turntable is not in a place so that it can reach the victim horizontally or vertically, the placement is useless for rescue. Initial placement should always consider rescue first. If rescue is clearly not a priority or a possibility, then the focus can shift to ventilation or elevated streams.

The turntable needs be placed so that the extended aerial is impacted as little as possible by wind, smoke, and fire, so that firefighters and the aerial operate in a safer and more efficient manner. This means the turntable generally should be positioned upwind of the location showing fire or smoke.

As the aerial begins to approach the victim, the tip or basket should be positioned above the victim and then brought down to the victim. This up, over, and down approach enables the firefighter to have better control of the operation and prevents panicked victims from jumping or prematurely getting on the aerial.

Mass × distance = force. If a 150-pound victim jumps three feet onto the ladder tip, the force will be nearly 500 pounds of impact. Can your ladder handle this, especially when a firefighter is already on the tip? Do you even want to try? In the case of multiple victims, how many can get on the ladder, and how do you space them out to distribute the weight? It may be necessary to put a firefighter into the window or onto the balcony to control the victims. Can the ladder hold three or more victims all concentrated in the same section of the ladder, especially when the ladder is at maximum extension off the side of the vehicle?

With platforms, it may be safer and quicker to fill the basket with victims, bring the basket to the ground, and then raise the basket back up to the window or balcony vs. trying to have everyone climb down the ladder. You should worry about whether or not the victim can climb down, since most people have never been on an aerial ladder before. All it takes is one victim to panic or freeze, and the parade comes to a halt; other victims may try to pass or climb over the obstruction, resulting in a variety of other problems.

Keep in mind that generally the aerial’s tip is at an angle to the building, not perpendicular. This angle decreases the aerial’s stability, which may be more significant in some aerials than others.

DECISION MAKING FOR MULTIPLE VICTIMS

For most firefighters, the need to make a rescue is rare. Even rarer is the need to rescue multiple victims from assorted locations in the same building. When these rescues must be made with the aerial ladder or platform, the operator and officer must have a predetermined order for the rescues. You must preplan this type of event and drill on it.

The order in which victims are removed is based on the level of threat and the greatest benefit to be gained: Whom can we do the most good for most quickly? First to be removed should be those in the immediate fire area. This means you see flames or heavy smoke in the same area as the victim. Do not allow the victim’s level of excitement dictate who gets rescued first. Let the fire behavior dictate the rescue order. Second are the victims most threatened by the fire or smoke spread. In a multiple-family dwelling of noncombustible or fire-resistive construction, the smoke’s spread, not the fire, may threaten victims. Third are the victims in the greatest number or groups. The last to be removed are victims in exposed areas.

LADDER FOR VENTILATION

When laddering for ventilation, is the company going to the roof or taking out windows? If taking out windows, many of the placement and position concerns are the same as for rescue. A firefighter operating from the tip of the aerial would use the same skills as if he were on a ground ladder.

Window Removal Using the Aerial’s Tip

Using the tip of the ladder’s fly to remove windows for ventilation can be controversial. However, this tactic is widely used in major cities, including New York and Chicago. This tactic has many advantages. It can improve firefighter safety by quickly reducing or removing heat and smoke from the fire area so companies may advance in for suppression or rescue. Improved ventilation increases the survivability profile for trapped occupants. Fire that may be spreading horizontally inside may now be drawn to the outside, reducing the potential for a flashover. If an aerial ladder can’t break out a piece or pieces of glass and remove some wood or aluminum, how can it be safe to support the weight of two or three firefighters and a civilian? There are some key steps to using this tactic correctly.

First, you can only attempt this with an aerial ladder and not any type of elevated platform. The tip should be raised to the top of the pane and lowered in enough to break the glass. Another method that works well is to place the tip of the ladder on the sash dividing the frame and slowly push in to break the glass. Both of these methods will avoid getting a rung at the tip snagged on a ceiling joist or rafter. As the glass breaks, the tip should be lowered to clear the frame of glass. The operator should pay attention to the force applied and any resistance. The aerial controls should be feathered to use only the force required and to avoid damage to the aerial. Ideally, large volumes of smoke should vent. Is this happening? Might a substantial object such as furniture or security bars be blocking the inside of the window? Don’t force; the ladder may be severely damaged. Be aware that falling glass or debris may be carried by wind or a fire stream and strike firefighters or civilians not immediately under the work area.

Most importantly, are your ladder and department capable of this? What will the physical effect on the ladder be? Most manufacturers would probably not endorse this practice. Some ladders are built with replaceable lower rungs and fly section beams (in case of physical or heat damage). It may be necessary to have a nondestructive test of the aerial that complies with NFPA 1914, Standard for Testing Fire Department Aerial Devices, 2002 edition, if the aerial is used in this manner. If your department decides it is acceptable to use the ladder to vent, how is the ladder’s tip set up? Are accessories-lights, pipes, nozzles-mounted at the tip or on the fly? Not only may they be damaged, but their presence may also make this tactic impractical or significantly less efficient.

If the truck crew is going to the roof for ventilation, consider these points:

Is this the only function the ladder will perform? (Probably not.) Might it have to be used for rescue or an elevated stream? If yes, you need to consider the following when determining positioning needs: Does the ladder need to get the firefighters to their work location on the roof immediately, or could they get off on the roof and walk 50 or 100 feet or so to where they will open up? If the roof needs to be evacuated in haste, firefighters can run across the roof to the ladder then climb down more quickly than if the ladder is next to the vent area.

How many rungs will you extend the tip over the wall? How will the firefighters be able to get off the ladder and down onto the roof? If you are using a platform, it should be over the roof far enough so that if a firefighter getting off should slip, he would fall on the roof and not to the ground. Whether the aerial is a ladder or a platform, the ladder most likely will rise up once the weight of the crew is on the roof. Anticipate this rise; it should not prevent the crew on the roof from getting back onto the aerial. Additionally, how recognizable is the tip or basket on the roof? Is yours marked with a light, or is it a bright color?

Most, if not all, aerial manufacturers recommend against supporting the aerial against a building. Although this may have been necessary for aerials built decades ago, resting the modern fly section of the modern aerial changes the loading of the aerial. Most aerials are built using a truss, and loading changes the compression and tension of the chords. The aerial is not designed for that. Again, pay attention to your manufacturer’s recommendations.

WATER TOWER

Elevated streams may be used in offensive and defensive attacks. They cannot be operated in the same area in which firefighters are performing an interior attack with handlines. In the offensive mode, the elevated stream may be used to quickly knock down fire so the handlines can be advanced into the area. This tactic requires strong command and control by the incident commander, and the aerial’s company officer and driver/operator must be able to read the situation and follow orders and procedures. Keep in mind the principle that fires should be attacked from the unburned side. We should not push the fire into uninvolved areas of the building.

With that said, it is perfectly acceptable to attack from the burning side if the fire is not forced into uninvolved areas, which results in a higher loss of life or property. As is the case in some defensive fires, the operator and officer must realize that the aerial stream may cause some additional fire or property damage to the building; but, in the overall picture, this additional loss is justified by who or what is saved.

In the defensive mode, the elevated stream’s greatest asset is its ability to cover more area when protecting exposures. However, it appears that many times the elevated stream becomes involved in applying “ceremonial” or “political” water to a structure that is beyond saving. In no case should the incident commander use precious water and scarce aerial streams to “look like we’re doing something” when that same stream could be used to protect an exposure.

It is common to see an elevated stream operated into upper floors or at large-loss fires involving big-box stores, factories, and other large complexes. However, elevated streams do not need to be some magical distance above grade level. In fact, the ladder pipe or platform-mounted nozzle can do everything a pumper’s deck pipe can do, with greater versatility. Operating the nozzle into the windows of one- or two-story buildings, or even at just above grade level into the broken-out storefront of a strip mall, can be very effective. The ability to move the whole master steam in all directions, something a fixed deck pipe or portable deluge set cannot do, is highly significant. Elevated streams from an aerial ladder or elevated platform can be brought right up to a window and applied horizontally for maximum reach, or deflected off ceilings or walls to reach shielded areas or provide greater water dispersion. Once applied into one window or area, this elevated stream can be easily and quickly relocated with minimal personnel.

When the elevated stream is used to attack the fire, it is commonly operated at an extreme height with the water’s being directed down at an angle nearly perpendicular to the fire area. Often, the wind carries away part of the water while the thermal column boils off another part of the stream’s water, resulting is a severely diminished stream that could possibly be more effective. Instead, operators should try to keep the stream as horizontal as possible. Most of the time, it cannot be perfectly horizontal; in fact, trying to make it so would make reaching over the fire nearly impossible. But, keeping the elevated stream lower will result in the fire’s being pushed in one direction and not all directions. Also, the stream broken by the wind is more likely to reach the fire than to be blown over to an unexposed area. The water in the stream that is heated and converted to steam will be more efficient; its proximity causes more heat to be pulled out of the fire.


(5) Prepiped aerial master streams, particularly those on tower ladders or ladder platforms, are well suited to grade-level attacks. A portable master stream cannot be maneuvered across a store front, but the aerial stream can. Never attempt this type of operation without first consulting the manufacturer’s operating procedures and then practicing them. Some aerials cannot flow water below a particular angle. (Photo by Nate DeMarse.)

All firefighters, not just the operator, need to know the procedure for placing an elevated stream in position. Do you have a pinnable waterway? If so, how does it work? Have you ever actually changed the pins? How do you get water into the aerial and operate the master stream’s controls? All this must be practiced over and over. If the aerial is not equipped with a prepiped waterway and mounted master stream, the crew must drill regularly on how to apply the ladder pipe and lay out the supply line.

DEVELOPING SKILL WITH LADDER OR BOOM CONTROLS

You will not be good at a skill unless you practice it. How do you practice your aerial skills-in the middle of a big, empty parking lot that is flat or out at structures? It may be difficult to get permission to use a structure, but try for early on a Sunday, when most businesses are closed. For residential buildings, there is no really good time. Why not use your own house if it is in your service area? After all, you are not cutting the roof, you are just working on positioning and operating the aerial.


(6) When operating an aerial master stream into a window, maximize the stream’s penetration by getting close and using the stream horizontally or bouncing it off the ceiling. Keep in mind that the tip of the aerial needs to stay out of the collapse zone, that area equal to or greater than the height of the building extending above the aerial’s tip. (Photo by Emily Traiforos.)

When buildings are hard to come by, some “natural” features make for a good operating course. The skills needed to master the feathering of the controls and combining maneuvers such as raise, extend, and rotate all in one move can be learned in a variety of spots. One commonly available spot is a parking lot with light poles or signs. With the aerial set up correctly, the operator can “trace” the border of the sign, a light pole (without overhead wires), or a parked vehicle, for example, to develop and master his operation of the controls.

• • •


(7) Using the aerial master stream can allow for a safe and rapid knockdown, which can then be followed by a handline. Coordination is essential. Keep streams horizontal to penetrate into the building. Such techniques are not limited to large commercial or industrial occupancies. Numerous single- and multiple-family dwelling fires could benefit from such tactics and increase firefighter safety. (Photo by Scott Peterson.)

Effective aerial operations at one- and two-story buildings require work. Education, training, and preplanning, as well as the development of SOPs for common structures, are musts. Even if your department provides an excellent training program, individual study and practice are essential to ensure maximum performance. So study the operator’s manual, read articles, “what if” other departments’ or shifts’ fires, and always ask yourself, “How can I do this better?”

DREW SMITH, a 29-year-veteran of the fire service, is deputy chief of the Prospect Heights (IL) Fire District. He has developed recruit, company, and tower ladder and aerial ladder training programs. He is chairman of the Illinois Technical Rescue Team Steering Committee, is director of a regional TRT, and serves on the state fire marshal’s training committee. He has a B.S. degree and multiple advanced certifications from the Illinois State Fire Marshal and has presented multiple FDIC programs.

DAVID TRAIFOROS, a 33-year fire service veteran, is chief of the Franklin Park (IL) Fire Department, where he has risen through the ranks. He served as the department training officer and is a regional training officer. He is a board member of the Mutual Aid Box Alarm System (MABAS) Division 20, which serves Chicago’s near western suburbs. He was Illinois’ “Instructor of the Year 2005.”

Raise The Main or Throw Ground Ladders?Why Not Both?

On every call, the aerial should be spotted and positioned, even when “nothing is showing” on arrival. When a working fire condition is obvious on arrival or reported by the investigating team, the aerial operator should automatically set up and raise the aerial to the building. This will serve as a second means of egress from upper floors or allow an assigned company to access the exterior for roof work or horizontal ventilation. If company members need ladders as they get off the apparatus, they can throw a ground ladder to get to work while the aerial operator completes the setup and raise.

Well, it’s only one or two stories, and we can get a ground ladder up there more quickly than the aerial. That may be, but consider this: How steep is that roof? If the pitch of a sloped roof is more than 30 degrees, foot traction becomes increasingly difficult. Should a firefighter fall, it may be difficult for him to stop before he rolls off the roof. Occupational Safety and Health Administration regulations require the use of a fall protection system on all sloped roofs and issues stricter requirements for roofs with pitches that rise more than four feet in 12 feet of run. This 4:12 pitch is far less than 30 degrees.

How well will your ground ladder support you if the roof fails? Can you direct an adequately flowing stream from the tip of the ground ladder? With older, aged, or deteriorating roofs and newer lightweight construction, having an aerial from which to work makes for a safer operation.

Some will argue that this might be a bit much, but consider that the properly positioned and raised aerial offers a safe and secure work space you can use with ease while a roof on a burning building is being attacked by heat and is being subjected to the effects of gravity. Even if the roof’s components are not subject to direct heat, the components that support the roof are being exposed to heat.

Having the incident commander routinely ask that the aerial be raised on investigations and not just at working fires will cause the truck crew (officer and driver) to improve their spotting and positioning as well as the speed and proficiency with which they can get the main out of the bed and up to the building.

A command transmission commonly heard on the fireground is for a newly arriving or staged unit to “pack up and report to command for orders.” Usually, the sharp crew not only packs up but also brings a selection of hand tools that will make them more useful to the incident commander.

Let’s have these crews take it a step further: If you’re not told to pull a line or lead out, then bring a ground ladder to the front of the building and throw it up in a spot that looks good. But what if it’s not put in the right place? Well, consider this: One or two firefighters can reposition an extension ladder randomly placed to an upper-floor window on the A side of the building so a trapped firefighter or a victim on the upper floor can use it in much less time than it would take the firefighters to get another ladder from the closest pumper or ladder company.

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