Ground Ladder Chocks


We all learned how to throw ground ladders during our probationary days, no doubt on a 6,000-square-foot parking lot with a skinny building rising from the center. Yet, how many fireground experiences actually resemble those dreadful days on the drill field? The territories in which we work vary dramatically even within our own cities, and the art of throwing ground ladders, some will argue, is truly languishing. One tool beneficial for a variety of purposes is the ground ladder chock.

Progressive ladder companies in this country have been using ground ladder chocks, or cribbing, as a vital tool for getting ladders in position regardless of the type of unit in which you arrive on the fireground, for some time. However, countless departments operate without the use of a dedicated ladder company or do not have one. Every engine and ladder company in the fire fleet carries some complement of ground ladders. When the time comes to throw a ladder on the fireground, what foresight have you taken in placing those ladders on uneven footing? The uneven footing can range from a dip in the front yard to a sloped sidewalk a concrete curb, and everything in between. Equip your engine or ladder company with this simple, cost-effective setup, and be prepared for placing your ground ladders on uneven footing (photo 1).

1. Photos by Finn rush.

Ground ladder chocks consist of one piece of 4- × 4-inch treated wood cut into a wedge and one piece of straight 2- × 4-inch treated wood. Use a 4- × 4-inch if your territory demands. Some departments now use 2- × 4-inch or 2- × 6-inch step chocks. If resources allow, the chocks can even be constructed from hardened plastic (vehicle rescue cribbing) that will endure the abuse of ground ladder operations.

Drill a small hole in one end of the straight 2- × 4-inch piece and in the thick end of the 4- × 4-inch wedge and attach the two with a piece of rope long enough to place around your neck or over one shoulder, which will leave a hand free to carry another tool. Do not paint the chocks so that you can tell the condition of the wood and when they need replacement (photo 2).


The firefighters carrying the ground ladder should also take the ground ladder chocks, which should be stored in an appropriate place so they are not forgotten (photo 3). Because of the various apparatus layouts encountered in the fire service today, this may take a little ingenuity. Hopefully, ground ladders are used aggressively on the fireground to ensure access or egress and effect ventilation.


When ground ladders are placed on uneven, soft ground, such as a grass lawn, the situation may be easily overcome by digging with the heel of your boot or a tool until both ladder butts are level. Also, the chock can be driven down into the ground with a tool at the heel of the ladder to act as a foot when there is no other firefighter to help. If the ladder is placed on uneven hard ground, such as asphalt, ground ladder chocks are a necessity (photos 4 and 5).

4. This ladder is placed on uneven asphalt. The ladder will move when the firefighter uses it for access or egress, even if another firefighter is footing the ladder.


5. In addition, the tip of the same ladder on uneven asphalt footing will move away from the wall (tip placement for demonstration purposes only) when the weight of a firefighter is applied to the top or bottom rungs.

Ground ladder chocks are simple and easy to use. Place the wedge chock at a 30° to 45° angle to the ladder beam on the downhill side, and slide firmly from the wall toward the ladder until the ladder beam is resting on the chock (photo 6).

6. The same ladder on uneven asphalt ground with the wedge chock on the downhill side. The wide portion of the wedge chock is faced toward the building so it will not be dislodged by a hoseline or a firefighter’s boot.

When the ladder is placed on uneven ground steep enough to overwhelm the wedge chock, the additional straight chock can be used to supplement the height. You may encounter areas in your territory severe enough to warrant using a 4- × 4-inch piece of treated wood as the straight chock (photo 7).

7. The ladder is placed on a standard curb (you never know where the window or objective might be) and the chocks are used together to offset the difference. This technique also works well for steep grades. Place the straight chock on the bottom when the two are used in conjunction.

Often, staffing levels allow only one firefighter to throw the ground ladder and accomplish a designated task such as rescue or ventilation. If the firefighter has to ascend/descend the ladder without another firefighter footing the ladder, the wedge chock may be used on hard surfaces such as asphalt or concrete to foot it. Although nothing compares with the safety of having a designated firefighter foot a ladder, we all know there are times when it cannot be done; the ground ladder chocks will afford us some degree of safety at those times (photo 8).

8. Place the wedge chock at a 30° to 45° angle, and kick it into place on either ladder beam. The ladder beam will semilock into place and help heel the ladder when another firefighter is not available. The narrow portion of the wedge chock is placed toward the building when using this technique.

Take the time to outfit your apparatus with a set of ground ladder chocks-their use is invaluable and will give you a distinct advantage on the fireground the next time you throw those ladders.

MATHEW RUSH is a 13-year veteran of the Austin (TX) Fire Department and a lieutenant assigned to Engine 22. He is an FDIC H.O.T. instructor and editorial advisor for and presents engine and truck classes throughout the country.

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