Yes, Your Engine Carries Ground Ladders!

By Dan Doyle

This drill is designed to discuss a host of factors regarding engine company ground ladders.

Depending on your particular structural assignments and response areas, some of you may be used to grabbing the engine company’s ground ladders and putting them to use. However, most of you are probability not! I’m not looking to single anyone out but its a fact; take a look at your next fireground and count the ladders left on the side of the engines!

A typical structural assignment in Everyday, USA, will have more engine companies than trucks assigned. As the incident unfolds, the truck company is responsible for choosing both the ladders to use and their prioritized placement. Many of these companies get caught up in the mindset that the ladders must come from the truck company. Depending on the ground ladder needed, that may be the case, but what is our “bread and butter”? Most of our work takes place in residential structures. Many of those structures can be accessed by a 24-foot extension ladder and the 14-foot straight/roof ladder that accompanies it.

Download this drill as a PDF HERE


Now, lets say we have three engines responding as operational companies; that’s six ladders that one firefighter can easily deploy using the right techniques. There may be a truck company on the way and, depending on that particular company’s ladder compliment, many of those ladders are much more cumbersome! The truck company personnel could elect to grab the lighter ladders that may be closer. Working smarter allows you to work longer!

When specing new engines, give thought firefighter-friendly operations. Consider the ground ladder height when mounted on the rig. All too often, they are not easily accessible in plain-clothes let alone with full personal protective equipment and self-contained breathing apparatus. Let’s be honest, if the deployment is a hindrance, the ladders will not be touched.

REMEMBER, the rig isn’t built for us! It’s built to enhance our tactical ability and efficiency when the citizens need help. If I have to climb the side of the rig or wait 30 or 40 seconds for a rack to lower, efficiency is out the window, literally!

Now, if your respective rig has a ladder rack or high mounted ladders, the fireground is not the time or place to wrestle with ways to overcome it. Drill and evaluate on options for when the rack fails to lower, along with the best options for getting high ladders down.

These are just some of the factors that play into initial fireground ladder operations. The ability to be versatile and adapt to particular circumstances will improve the crew’s performance, and will serve the people well!


Dan Doyle is a lieutenant for the Pittsburgh (PA) Bureau of Fire and an instructor for Traditions Training, LLC.

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