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I know that LAFD, Los Angeles Fire Department has always and still use only wooden ladders as depicted above.

Wood Ladders Questions:

1. Does anyone know of other departments that still use wood ladders?

Wood ladders do not conduct electricity which contributes significantly to it's safety feature but they are heavy.

2. What are some of the pro's and con's for using wood verses aluminum ladders?

CBz
An lung cancer followed. WE have come a long way. Thank God!
San Francisco FD not only uses wooden ladders but makes and repairs their own.
http://www.vententersearch.com/?p=959

I think the biggest reason for using aluminum is its weight to strength ratio. You can have a big enough ladder that can be raised with a minimum number of men. Fiberglass ladders are nice, lighter than wood but heavier than aluminum. Wooden ladders, as a result of their weight could almost be considered to be self-anchoring (highly resistant to wind which is one reason SFFD still uses them).

Aluminum is conductive to both electricity and heat. Excessive heat to an aluminum ladder will weaken and most likely trash it (or at least require it to be tested before put back in use). And so far as I know, aluminum ladders are difficult and expensive, if not impossible, to repair.

The working life of an aluminum ladder is considerably less than that of a wooden one. If you watch the video in the link I posted (vententersearch.com) SFFD is STILL using the very first wooden ladder they made, in 1917.

I have a 24ft wooden ladder that my father had. It's heavy and hard to maneuver but once up, it ain't going anywhere. Nice to know when you're climbing off the roof and there's no one below to foot it for you.
I would love to get ahold of a short wooden ladder from back in the day. The craftsmanship was and still is amazing. And as always, an exceptional synopsis on aluminum vs. wood Jack.
I found this http://community.fireengineering.com/forum/topic/show?groupUrl=trad...
In the article, it says that the biggest ladder SFFD uses is a 50 footer, and it weighs 350lbs.
Roughly, that's 7lbs per foot.
Some comparisons I found:
Aluminum 3 fly 40 footer is 220lbs,
Aluminum 3 fly 45 footer is 240 lbs
Aluminum is about 5.3lbs per foot.
Fiberglass 3 fly 40 footer is 181 lbs.
Yes leather lungers who exposed themselves repetitively and eventually died of lung cancer. The SCBA solved most of that... And most of our retirements we set from the data of firefighter life expectancy. Problem is with today's hazardous / toxic smoke, we are now seeing alarming rates of "other" cancers that the SCBA simply does not resolve.

New fires, new hazards, new diseases for which we now face and our forefathers didn't.
Bellevue Washington uses wood.
New fires, new hazards, new diseases for which we now face and our forefathers didn't.

FETC, you are so right on the money here. Since the 1950's, technology and the use of plastics has risen exponentially. The result, when combined with pyrolysis are carcinogens that depending on the chemical make up, target specific organs and cell types. What used to be only a respiratory hazard now includes the other routes of exposure that include dermal absorption. Airborne particles touch exposed skin, permeate into our tissue and get absorbed into your body, cruising around looking for just the right spot to mess with our various internal systems.

Unfortunately, folks will look back at how we fight fires right now and shake their heads wondering why we allowed any skin to be exposed to such toxic materials. Much like right now where we are commenting on how SCBA's have resolved a lot of health issues for firefighters because we are protecting our vital organs that include the heart and lungs.

The problem is that our largest "organ" is our skin and we are not affording appropriate levels of protection.

Keep in mind, it only takes ONE exposure to trigger a cancer cell chain reaction... Just sayin'

CBz
Hey.... this gets me going with kids saying they can't feel the heat and bitchin about the old days, no hoods, 3/4 boots and long coats. Not the same fires, or hazards that papi fought sonnie. The men today are just as manly... it's a different world.

The first PPE company that can figure out how to incorporate our PPE Fire and Thermal protection ratings, and can also encapsulate from toxins will win in the cross contamination / absorbtion hazard protection game.

They are working on it as we speak... Shouldn't still smell "the fire" 3 days and multiple showers later... just saying.
Whilst most ladders allow us to do things like:

- ladder slides



- ladder hinge



However, a ladder derrick can only be done with a wooden ladder:
- ladder derrick (I think the derrick is one of those forgotten tools and not done that often, thus why I can only find a diagram as oppossed to a photo)

Lutan, the ladder derrick that you show looks like a church raise that I did 15 years ago in FF1/FF2 class. We took a 35 footer aluminum ladder with 4 ropes tied off to it then you raise it straight up in the air with firefighters on the ropes to keep it straight. With full PPE we had to climb up the ladder to the top then go over the top and come back down on the other side. I never liked ladders/heights that much but I did it, wasn't bad as long as you didn't look down and the going over the top was one leg at a time(scared the **** out of you). It was hard not to have the ladder sway a little bit with the ropes. I don't think they do it anymore cuz when I ask the rookies if they did the church raise in class they have no idea what I'm talking about.

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