Laddering discussion from one of our many Fire and EMS blogs, Holding 1&1


You are the driver of the single ladder company dispatched for an appliance fire at a garden apartment. Two engine companies are also responding on this alarm.

The call originated from Apartment 301, which is at the top of the stairs, first door on the left (top floor). Additional information from your dispatcher reports that the resident stated his dryer was on fire but he believes he put it out. He also advised that he was the only one in the unit and that he was evacuating.

You are wheeling the big rig with a stick and because you were doing district familiarization, you arrive before any water does. Your officer conducts his size-up and reports nothing evident. After opening the door to the apartment, however, the crew finds a moderate amount of smoke, banked to the floor. Over your portable radio you hear the officer request additional resources as you begin to throw ladders.

What and where will you throw them? Be Specific (order, size, and exact location).

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Ok, coming from a small town fire chief with no designated ladder company here is my take on this, so be gentle...LOL


I would throw a 35 foot ground ladder up to the 3rd floor balcony for emergency egress, use the stick on the truck to ladder the roof for a vent crew to stand by, a 12 foot straight ladder to the 2nd floor balcony, and one 35 footer in the rear to the 3rd floor somewhere (not sure what it looks like from the one picture).

You can never have enough ladders, if you have the help than have them throw ladders to cover a good portion of the building for egress purposes.  Let the FAST know what and where you have them too so they know.

Considering our operations and staffing, if I were the driver, I would be inside with the crew checking things out. Since I would be inside I wouldn't be laddering. Take a water can, go in put the fire out or keep it in check, problem solved.

However, even if outside and was alone, one is limited. With the apartment on the third floor, there is a good chance you wouldn't be laddering effectively as a single person. Hauling and throwing a 35 ft as a single person is difficult as it is and not the safest. Getting injured trying to throw a 35 ft by yourself isn't helping out the situation. Sure one can easily throw a 24 ft or roof ladders, and really perhaps a 24 would reach the balcony if this was just left of the entry. I wouldn't worry about the aerial or even worry about going to the roof....priority would be getting people out.


Personally, I wouldn't be too worried about laddering the building right now. In all actuality, I would be looking to go in and join up with the crew to start on searching and evacuating other tenents. I would be considering setting up fans, utility, 360, etc as opposed to laddering by myself. Leave the ladders at this point. If need be, order another crew to start throwing ladders.

Given the scenario, it is a good likliehood the fire was still smoldering when the tenent left and a small fire can generate a lot of smoke. Sure call for resources, but likely one could probably mitigate such an incident with a can. Use the TIC to check for extension, vent the apartment, if you have fire spread, keep it in check until the pump gets there.

I understand there are staffing challenges so there will be a lot of answers, all of them somewhat different.

If the incident is serious enough for search and evacuation, is it not serious enough to place some ladders? When firefighters really need ladders, waiting around is usually not an option. They are there for US, assuming no victim rescue was evident at window on arrival. In this scenario, the occupant confirmed an unoccupied apartment so the life hazard is us. It's best to be proactive and get some ladders up. If staffing is really a problem it might be worth it to pull that door shut  and delay entry until a ladder is up. Doesn't take long.

Tough to really make the right call in this particular scenario due to incomplete size up in initial post.

Staffing is one aspect, truck set up is another, size up another and so forth. Basically there are many unknowns and so forth to give a definitive answer, just as there will be a variety of answers based on local protocol etc.


Given the scenario it alludes that you are the single driver still with the rig and that you are the only one to start throwing ladders. The "fire"is apparently on the top floor to left of the stairs, first apartment. Looking at the pic and the grade of the ground, it is possible a 24 ft would reach to the balcony, you are pushing the height limitations the further left you go. Throwing a 35 ft as a single FF is a challenge at best and can have a great chance of injury trying to move this on one's own. Anything less than a 35 ft is essentially useless to throw in the given scenario by one person.


Sure, one can set up the aerial, but again it is going to depend upon the ladder. For the trucks we would be using, it would entail setting out ground pads, extending the outriggers from the sides..... each side can be done together, but it still can take some time to get the ladder set up.


Given the size of the structure and possibility for more occupants and people still inside rather than just the tenent of the fire unit, means that there is potential for more than just concern for the fire crew. Considering truck duties delve beyond just laddering and considering one doesn't have to be working on a ladder company to throw ground ladders or even set up the aerial, and considering there are many benchmarks to meet, is the reason I said laddering is not my priority.


Yeah sure there are FFs inside, but again, you are the lone person. A 24 ft may get to the balcony, if that is the unit involved, the only other realistic option is setting up the aerial.....yet we don't have a 360 either, is the aerial even set up in the best spot? Hence the reason I said laddering is not a priority at this point.


Sure one can come on here and say they are going to throw this size ladder here and this size here and so forth, however, I would doubt there are very many that are training and routinely doing single person 35 ft ladder carries and raises. Again there is a good potential for injury if trying to do so, even for really fit FFs.



There are other companies coming in (2 engines with this alarm), there is no reason that the engine company could not throw ladders when they arrive on scene (I would highly doubt their arrival time is going to be much of a disparity if they were dispatched the same time as you). My point here is there is more that can be or should be done than throwing ground ladders.


In fact, now looking back, (given the knowledge there are 2 engine companies soon to arrive), I would be pulling the line off the pump to bring up to the ladder crew where they can do FF. One engine can be ready to back up and the other can do laddering. One does not, nor should not, be limited to doing solely the duties of the rig they are assigned.

Given the scenario, we just know "moderate smoke", I would definately agree with calling for additional resources, but experience tells me this could be a small if any fire, just smoke. We have nothing showing on arrival, this wan't an automatic fire alarm, but a tenent who called in the fire in his dryer, believing the fire was out prior to evacuating. Sure there are other unknowns, but what I do know and from experience, I don't see laddering as the biggest priority for a single person to be doing at this point.

This is not about a one man response. Reference is made to an officer and a "crew".

Your assessment could very well be perfectly accurate. No mention is made of heat level. Smoke is "moderate". Could easily be a dryer fire with little to no extension.

I just want to make the point that you can't wait for ladders to be a priority before you place them. You need to do it BEFORE it's a priority. Leaving it for later arriving units could potentially be a problem.

Essentially, you ARE a one man response. Given the scenario it states that you are the driver, the crew goes in and you overhear the officer radio for more resources. The fire is on the third floor, so essentially you are left by the rig by yourself, because the rest of your crew is upstairs by the apartment.


That is my point here. While the scenario and questions ask about where and size of ladders, realistically looking at the situation, the answer to those questions are not that simple. One should be looking at the bigger picture and if given the subtle details, I'm led to believe I am a single person with the rig here and the lone person right now to throw ladders. Hence my answer is that laddering is not my priority.


  I am with the Capt. on this one, John.  We run with 4 on a Truck they can run   short with 3. 

  1st due truck is search. If 4 are on board then 2 go in to search & 2 stay out. The outside are a back stepper & the chauffeur. They throw ladders, set up the ladder. They may take some windows. Once this is done they will assist with search. The 2nd due Truck is vent. They will use the first dues ladders. 

   If the Truck is running short. The officer may go in with the backsteppers and leave the chauffeur outside to set up the stick & throw ladders, etc. 

  Let us not over look the fact that this is a apartment fire therefore a container fire. Unless it has gotten into the attic. Then it may run a bit. However your occupants down stairs can be protected in place. with the exception of the occupants below the fire. 

  Even a small fire in a apartment will produce very smokey conditions. 

 Because of the area the complex covers,this would get a high rise response. 

  Note: Truck is a ladder truck, Engine has hose & water. A Chauffeur drives a Truck a Engineer drives a engine.


All that is fine and good and you can disagree if you wish. My response here is based upon the scenario as given. Regardless of crew size, one is led to believe that as the driver, you are the sole person by the rig. The scenario says you start to throw ladders and asks what sizes and where.


My response was looking at the bigger picture at hand. I did mention one could throw a 24 ft to the balcony area, but as you look further left and ground diminishes, realistically anything less than a 35 ft is useless. Since you are led to believe you are the only one to throw ladders, throwing a 35 ft by yourself is difficult and isn't a routine action. This would leave setting up the aerial, and if by yourself, will take a bit longer than if you are with another.


Now if it is protocol to set up the aerial right away, hey fine and good, but again looking at the scenario, that may be your only and best option if one only focuses upon the specified questions. My point here is to look at everything else and think beyond specific questions, know your limitations, and know what else you got.


Looking back at the scenario, it also states that you have two other engines already dispatched along with you and are coming as part of the designated response (regardless of how one's dept operates, this is what is given in the scenario and should be the focus for one's answer). The only reason the truck is first in and investigating is because apparently you were out doing district familiarization and arrived first. The officer requested additional resources upon seeing smoke in the apartment.


We know the tenent called for a possible dryer fire that they believed was out prior to leaving the unit. We know there is "moderate smoke" banking to the floor, but we don't know color, density, etc. Most likely this is a small smoldering fire which can be easily handled with a water can and the crew already there. Just going off experience there, sure call for additional resources, but more often than not the answers focus upon the specific question (where and size of ladders) as opposed to considering all the factors.


Given the fact that the next two engines should be arriving very soon (they were dispatched the same time, and barring other unknowns like traffic issues, etc, which are not mentioned) there is no reason that a line could not be pulled by you, the driver, to the crew and the ladder crew take over FF and let the engine company throw ladders and so forth.


Now, I understand that there are places that have truck and engine operations and they like to keep their seperate job tasks and so forth. The dept I'm with does not limit one's duties to their rig duties. IE, it is not uncommon for an engine company to search, vent, ladder, nor is it uncommon for a truck company to be used to man a back up line or attack line and so forth. Considering one has to do all the tasks in recruit training etc, there is no reason that a dept *must* limit job tasks to the rig specific duties.


Given all the factors presented by this given scenario, it is my opinion that laddering is not *my* priority. I have no problems with throwing ladders, nor doing it expeditiously, just given the scenario, throwing a 35 ft by yourself is difficult and IMO, unsafe (good potential for injury and possible needless injury given other known factors) thus realistically limiting the aerial as the best option. So IMO, it is better to look at the other incident priorities and think beyond the box, look at all options as opposed to limiting them.

  Sorry about that John. I was not considering the scenario when I responded.

I know that you and others on here know about Truck and Engine companies. I just put that in for those who do not. 

   I do agree that throwing a 35' is a bit much for one man. Another thing I must clear up is this. On a fire in a large structure such as this. The officer on the Truck may in fact have his entire crew go in to search. Besides you can vent from inside, just knock out the right windows. 


On a fire in a large structure such as this. The officer on the Truck may in fact have his entire crew go in to search. Besides you can vent from inside, just knock out the right windows.

I completely agree. I prefaced my first comments likewise, that if I were the driver of the truck, I would be upstairs with the rest of the crew. I actually had a different first response about this and questioned as to why would I worry about laddering when you are at the apartment in question. Why go downstairs, throw ladders etc, when one can most likely easily mitigate with a water can and the crew there?


Then I re-read the scenario and the response I initially wanted to give was off, so I deleted that and went with this. In fact I would think this is realistically the best option for such a given scenario, take the entire crew with you if encountering such a situation. Leaving just ONE person at the rig limits what that person is realistically going to do.


That was the point of my response here, looking at the scenario, screw the original question and focus on what is more realistic. Anyone can give off ladder sizes and where they would set them up and so forth, but if you are alone, as the scenario alludes, you are grossly limited in what you will realistically be able to accomplish. Given the scenario, if laddering truly is the biggest priority that one may perceive, then setting up the aerial is pretty much your best and only good option. Whereas, if stepping back a bit and look at things, knowing your limitations and what you have, think beyond just answering the question asked.


In the end, I agree, the best option is to go in as a crew. 

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