Firefighter Training Drill: Extending Ladders?

By Scott Kraut

Some photos of means of extending a ladder.

While today’s fireground may seem a bit more sterile than your father’s, there are times that we should look to their tried-and-true techniques for adaptation to our environment. Understanding that proper placement of the hydraulic ladder for victim rescue and firefighter egress is paramount and knowing your response district cannot be overstated, however there may be an instance that calls for just a few more feet out of the ladder when you have nothing left. That is not the time to try to figure it out, so we look to what others have done, and FDNY’s Ladders 6 gives us that template.

How do we adapt that to our apparatus? This drill focuses on one method, but like anything else you have to get out there and see what works for you. The following was performed on a 95’ Pierce mid-mount tower ladder with readily available equipment that would be accessible and the ratings for all connections were researched and deemed adequate.

First we looked at how to quickly deploy equipment that was readily accessible and standardized for other uses so as not to create another “special bag” for use in this extreme situation. We use our standard lifeline bag, which contains 200’ of ½-inch (12.8mm) static kernmantle rope, four (4) sets of 20-inch webbing, and four (4) figure eight descenders attached to four (4) carabiners.  We also tried to utilize methods that were familiar so as not to need a technical rescue expert when time is of the essence thus we decided to use the figure eight on a bight and a girth hitch followed by two half hitches (photos 1 and 2 in PDF).

We used a 20’ and 12’ ladder, but the 12’ is attached to the fly section of the ladder so more than likely that will be our go to. The rope is fed out of the bag and inserted through the sixth rung on the ladder and a figure eight on a bight is used to attach the working end of the rope to a carabiner and then to the 5/8-inch eyehook. At this point, the running end of the rope is girth hitched around the second carabiner prior to it being attached to the other eyehook. Once attached, two half hitches are used as safeties on the girth hitch side.

We now ensured that the ladder was properly butted at the base of the platform (photo 3) and the ladder is lowered until the rope it taught. The ladder should not rest on the front of the platform railing, but be self supported in the bucket by the ropes at this time (photos 4 and 5). We are now ready to place the bucket in position and ensure that we position the ladder so that the tips are evenly supported by the objective (structure, window sill, etc. Photo 6). The objective that cannot be overstated is while this operation is only to be used under extreme, life saving conditions it must be thought out and practiced ahead of time.  Under stress we will lose our ability to think cognitively so we must commit these low frequency/high risk tactics to our muscle memory.

The photos and descriptions included with this drill illustrate tips or best practices for the given task. As with all our operations and the tasks that we perform, be a steward of the fire service by continuing to learn from others and share your knowledge with the rest of us.

Download this drill as a PDF HERE (7.7 MB).

SCOTT KRAUT is an truck lieutenant on Tower Ladder 40 in Fairfax County, Virginia. He began his fire service career in 1996 and has held various positions throughout his career, including captain in field training. He is a graduate of the West Point Leadership program and has been a lead instructor for Traditions Training LLC. since 2004. More Traditions Training:


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