Throw Back to Basics: High Shoulder Carry

Firefighters carrying ladders on the training ground.

By Brian Zaitz

Ground ladders are a critical fireground tool, providing access and egress to upper floors for rescue, ventilation, and fire attack.  The ability to efficiently and correctly place ground ladders can dictate success or failure on the fireground, and thus we must constantly drill and train on choosing, moving, and placing ground ladders.

There are many ways to carry ground ladders. Going back to the academy days, we may even remember ladder commands such as, “Shoulder the ladder,” or “Wheel left.” Although these were great for the training ground, they are far from effective on the fireground (Note: Training must match reality).  Most firefighters either carry the ladder by the beam or shoulder the ladder, sliding the arm between the two beams.  Both are effective, however another option is the high shoulder carry.  In this case, firefighters “shoulder” the ladder beam and carry the ladder with the butt toward the ground at the fourth and fifth rung.  This carry allows for the ladder to be in position to quickly deploy in a single firefighter beam raise. By already having the butt towards the ground, the firefighter simply drops the butt and lifts the ladder into position. This is a quick and fluid motion to achieve both access and egress.  The downside is that you increase the firefighter profile, which exposes the hazard of hanging wires. Always be aware of your surroundings and, when performing a high shoulder carry, note any low hanging wires.

The high shoulder carry can also be used for extension ladders. In a similar fashion, the butt firefighter slightly lifts the ladder and the tip firefighter comes in about six rungs.  The key is having both firefighters on the bed side; “Bed to your Head” is an easy way to remember it.  Once the target is located, the butt firefighter uses his outside foot to butt the ladder at the feet and reaches in to assist in raising the ladder.  Once raised, the ladder can be extended to the desired location and secured with the halyard.

Ground ladders are an essential fireground tool; make sure your company is proficient in ground ladder use by going to the training grounds and throwing a few ladders.

Download this training bulletin as a PDF HERE (444 KB)

Brian ZaitzBrian Zaitz is a 14-year student of the fire service, currently assigned as the captain/training officer with the Metro West (MO) Fire Protection District. Brian is an instructor with Engine House Training, LLC as well as instructor at the St. Louis County Fire Academy.  Brian holds several degrees, including an associates in paramedic technology, a bachelors in fire science management, and a masters in human resource development. Brian is currently and accredited chief training officer and student of the National Fire Academy’s Executive Fire Officer Program.


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