You are the driver. We have responded in the best order to ensure that the truck will have the best opportunity for the most effective position at the scene of the reported structure fire. Now, let`s throw in the fudge factors.

Narrow street with cars parked on both sides. On the way down the block, your mental process of LOCATE, LOCATE, LOCATE is in full speed. You should be able to decide on which side of the block the fire is. Stay with that side. The first problem with narrow streets is outrigger position availability. If you have an Aerialscope, the question is, “When is it OK to crush a car?” (Sound familiar?) Here is the answer: Get as close as possible to the fire side of the street, and have someone help you position the outrigger that extends most from the side of the truck between the front bumper of one car and the trunk of the one in front of it. This gives you the most room you will ever get on THAT street in front of THAT fire building.

I would tell my guys on the tower ladder, “If you do that and it is vital that you use the bucket for a valid size-up reason, then it will be excusable to crush the outboard obstacle.”

How many times have you been positioned in the center of the street and found it impossible to set up without serious relocation problems?

“Where is the water supply, truck?” Just as important as positioning the aerial and portable ladders carried on the truck for maximum effectiveness is being concerned about not interrupting the water supply.

I have photographs of truck outriggers crushing handlines already committed to the structure or other life-threatening objectives (a 50-ton hose clamp!). Get in the habit of looking for the handlines. Other photos show aerial devices directly in front of a hydrant and the poor pump operator`s being forced to make some adaptive kind of hookup that is certainly more time-consuming than using the 12-foot soft suction connection!

What about the overhead wires? Well, a few rules of the road here can help most departments, with the exception of my recent department of Waterbury, Connecticut.

Wires usually are installed as a service on one side of the street (where the poles are). This cuts your wire problem in your response district in half. The next rule is to get the turntable as close to the wires as possible; this reduces the risk of electrocution significantly. The closer the turntable is to the line of wires, the more area the tip of the aerial will have to reach objectives on the face of the structure. Conversely, the farther the turntable is out from the wires, the more useless it becomes. If you can get the turntable between the wires and the building, you have no wire problem–unless your firefighters are into circling the neighborhood by rotating themselves 360 degrees!

The reason I mentioned Waterbury is that in Waterbury and some other older New England areas, there is no wire pattern. Wires come from anywhere and go anywhere in any direction. For purposes of easy snow removal in the 19th century, structures in New England were built close to the sidewalk line. One set of wires 12 to 16 feet up the pole will virtually make any aerial useless for the second and third floors and maybe even for the fourth floor and roof.

What about the trees? Trees are tough–and another reason to slow down in the fire block. (See how many things you have to worry about? Don`t look to the officer for help–he`s too busy with other things we talk about here from time to time.) You can extend aerial devices through small-dimension pieces of tree limbs in emergencies. The trick is not to retract through the same branches. Cut a path through that you didn`t have time to do before. Coming back (retracting) can cause all kinds of damage to the hydraulic, electric, and air systems. Trees and tree parts can rip into these systems as well as cause snags and result in loops in aerial service reel wires the retracting sections can sever.

With Aerialscopes you can, in an emergency, rotate into the light twigs and limbs and rotate out. With other types of tower apparatus, check SOPs and manufacturers` guidelines. No one will tell you that what we say here can be done; but you are there and a person is trapped, and you have to do something. Positioning the apparatus will give you the options. Failure to position gives you no options.

Hey, that`s a building site or excavation site! A good rule is not to operate the aerial from a position 35 feet or less from a trench wall–on the operation side of the truck, that is. Vibrations of movement and pressure of the extended aerial on the outriggers can cause the excavation wall to move and the ground to become lower under the fixed outrigger.

Remember, the truck should never enter the block later than as the second piece to arrive. This includes second-due pumpers, rescue vans, and certainly ambulances and fire police units. Practice aerial position. You should become great at it. So few aerials are properly positioned in many fire photos taken today. n

TOM BRENNAN has more than 33 years of fire service experience. His career spans more than 20 years with the City of New York (NY) Fire Department as well as four years as chief of the Waterbury (CT) Fire Department. He was 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).

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