At larger dwelling structures-multiple-story dwellings that are of combustible construction, the first-arriving ladder generally should take position perpendicular to the main and observable objective-the fire floor or the visible life hazard. The ladder unit should be prepared here for many things-entry to the fire floor, if tenable; removal of and additional search for victims indicated on arrival by continuous size-up; entry to the floors above the fire floor for search and ventilation; roof ventilation (unless the roof team has alternate means of access to the top of the structure); and, finally, any eventuality that may become evident after arrival.
If a fire condition is not obvious on arrival, a tentative position should be at the corner of the building where activity will take place, nearest to your arrival direction. Here you have the ability to view two sides of the structure (I’ll discuss this in a future column). But what is more important in staging here is that you have the ability to move forward to other locations across the structure should the interior team discover a hidden fire condition or victims (trapped firefighters) begin to show themselves or the roof team return and your aerial device is the only option to get to its position. The corner position will also offer the outside entry, search, and vent teams a few more access points for getting into the “rear” of the fire occupancy. It will also be easier to maneuver forward across the face of the building should fire break out or some “surprises” (mentioned above) show themselves at various, now-vacant, window and roof positions. Remember a sure rule: You can generally pull a truck forward on the fireground for a second location (spotting), but you can never back it up!
Let me stop here a second! Nothing upsets me more than the criticism of the collapsed aerial belonging to the Fire Department of New York that appeared on the covers of national periodicals. Everyone had a theory and someone unknown to them to blame! The sad thing is that those receiving the press and the most vocal across the nation were usually the two- or three-year “veterans” who have never arrived at a structural fire in their lives. Unless you can visualize the problems instantly from some near-experience, you haven’t a clue! The photo was of a world-class truck based in a district that has more position problems than London had during the Blitz. There were lessons in that collapse, but not about position. The main lesson was that aerial ladders have little shear stress strength.
Tower ladder operators at these structures should be aware of their “scrub area” and position the apparatus where they can access the fire floor and the best inverted triangle over that fire area to the top floor and roof position.
Second-arriving ladder trucks at multiple-dwelling locations (you should be so lucky) should avoid entering the fire block from the same direction. This should be obvious to all our readers by this time. If there is difficulty with figuring this out while responding, don’t hesitate to get on the radio-either redirect from the fire scene or ask for additional information from the “arrived” command position. Remember that it is a very confusing area for the first few minutes (no matter what the experts say at conventions) and, as second aerial, you may want to “remind” them that you are still responding and flexible!
Note: We always hear, “Working fire on arrival. Smoke showing. No smoke showing. Stretching in. Prepare to supply first engine.” But less and less do we hear response directions that are vital to unit placement on the fireground. How vital is the other stuff mentioned here?
Second-arriving ladder units should always be prepared to “answer” for assured access to the roof of these buildings for roof teams that may be delayed by needed truck operations on the face of the building, true aerial rescues, and the alternate access to all floors above the fire floor from outside. The second responsibility for these “other aerials” is the floor or floors above the lowest fire floor. See how position is directly related to operational objectives?
In any event, “staging” for the two first arriving aerial devices must be at the probable use positions on the fa?ade of the fire structure. If it is left open for other service units (other than the first-arriving engine company), it will be plugged and unavailable as fast as arrival/departure parking positions at busy airports.
The reason for the use of the word combustible in the paragraph introducing multiple dwellings should be obvious. Multiple dwellings of combustible construction are almost always lower in height than the reach of aerial devices. If that is not the case in your district, prepare to answer some conscience-probing questions.
TOM BRENNAN has more than 35 years of fire service experience. His career spans more than 20 years with the Fire Department of New York as well as four years as chief of the Waterbury (CT) Fire Department. He was the editor of Fire Engineering for eight years and currently is a technical editor. He is co-editor of The Fire Chief’s Handbook, Fifth Edition (Fire Engineering Books, 1995). He is the recipient of the 1998 Fire Engineering Lifetime Achievement Award.