Ladder Angles

Posted 06/24/2014 by IRONSandLADDERS
Categories: 5. Ladder Work

Tags: , ,

Ladder Angles

75 degree ladder angles happen in books, some training towers and if you happen to be throwing a ladder to a brick wall. It is a great goal to shoot for but it is very rarely a reality when you are laddering real buildings. Extension ladders give you a little more room for error because you can adjust to your obstacle, straight ladders leave you very little choice. When we ladder a building we ladder below the sill of the window, it is the most versatile place to set a ladder. With that said depending on window height, landscaping, grade, overhangs, vehicles, fences, AC units, and a long list of other problems, you can count on having angles that are less than desirable. It is important to understand the limitations of each size ladder you carry on the rig. How far can you have an unfooted ladder kicked out on concrete v.s. asphalt v.s. grass and still be able to work on the end of it? The nature of most building heights along with the 14′s and 16′s being the most common straight ladders carried, will almost certainly put you in a position that you will be working on ladders that are very shallow compared to your text book climbing angles. It is the nature of our job and really is not a big deal if you practice. Try your ladders at different buildings and on different surfaces. Know the limitations of your climbing angles, it saves you from having to guess when it is time to go to work. This is a simple way to up your ladder work skill. Brick walls and training towers are where the very basics are taught, it takes real window heights and realistic obstructions to really learn practical fire ground ladder work.

Ladder Packages (3 story garden levels)

Posted 06/23/2014 by IRONSandLADDERS
Categories: 5. Ladder Work

Tags: , , ,

Ladder Package

Ladder packages can have great value, especially when it comes to ladder work on apartments. Our outside truck team (Ladders team) consists of the driver and the firefighter who rides behind him. One of our primary jobs on an apartment fire is to get to the backside opposite of all the other fire units and perform ladder work or VES. Many times this is away from your truck and time is not on your side. The photo is one example where ladder packages can apply. This is what we call a 3 story garden level apartment, I know this term varies across the country but we are referring to the bottom floor being slightly below grade. This is the most common apartment style that we burn in around our district. When these have good fires in them you can count on people being at these windows because of the common egress being cut off.

We have a pretty standard rule of thumb for ladder choices on 3 story garden levels. 14 footers for the 2nd floor, and 20s and 24s for the 3rd floor. The two person outside truck team can accomplish the four most threatened units with only one trip from the truck, this includes your tools. In the picture you can see the firefighter carrying the 24′,14′, hook and halligan, while the driver follows up with the 20′, 14′ and another hook. With proper training and practice this can be a very straight forward evolution you can implement as an option. It takes some understanding in the brand and type of ladders you carry along with choosing from the multiple ways to do the carries with low suitcase carries or low shoulder carries. Give it a try for your compliment of ladders and staffing. It will become second nature with some practice and you will find different ladder packages can apply to a variety of different buildings and fires.

More to come on this later…

July 21st Now Open in Lawrence Kansas

Posted 05/27/2014 by IRONSandLADDERS
Categories: Uncategorized

We have added a third day because of the overwhelming response. July 19th and July 20th have both filled. Email us today to secure a spot in the last day of class. The flyer has been updated. Thanks!


Ladders Up!

Posted 05/21/2014 by IRONSandLADDERS
Categories: 5. Ladder Work

Tags: , ,

Fire by Trade LLC got me thinking the other day with his post about ground ladder rescues across the nation so far this year. 119. Think about how many are not documented, probably many many times that number.

Ladder work is a culture and a mindset, that’s it. If you don’t have that culture in your department, you can do one of two things. You can keep telling people that you have just never really done it that way, or you can develop a culture of aggressive ground ladder work one fire at a time.

My department has removed 17 people from windows at working apartment fires in the last 2 months. I am proud of the ground ladder work that goes on and the culture that has slowly built around it. It is better for the citizens and it is better for us.

I came across these photos below that someone took after a recent top floor apartment fire. This is the handy work of multiple truck companies doing there job on the backside of a hard to access fire building. No excuses, just lots of ladders placed quickly for rescue and the interior crews working their way down this center hallway.

It is a thing of beauty…Bang Up Job!!!


Lawrence Kansas Forcible Entry Class 2014

Posted 05/16/2014 by IRONSandLADDERS
Categories: Uncategorized

The full day forcible entry class in Lawerence Kansas is now officially open for registration. We are offering the class on two different days, you can choose July 19th or July 20th. If these days both fill up we will open a third day to accommodate whoever else would like in. We have dropped the price from originally planned in an effort to allow as many people as possible to sign up. This is only 25.00 more then we offer this class in Colorado!

Email us as soon as possible to reserve your spot today. Payment and forms will come later, all we need to hold a spot is your a name and email for each person attending. Register at

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Kicking Doors 101

Posted 04/13/2014 by IRONSandLADDERS
Categories: 1. Forcible Entry

Tags: , ,

A quick thought on kicking doors. We teach not to do it. Not because it won’t open doors, because  honestly it will open a lot of them. I am not trying to kid anyone and say that we have not kicked open residential doors before. But I will say when I was still kicking doors open it is because I didn’t properly understand how to use a Halligan bar. So kicking was the easiest way for me to open an apartment door that was on fire. After I gained some experience, learned my way around a set of Irons and really thought about when and when not to kick a door, it became real clear to me that because I was now properly trained on a Halligan bar (and I carry it), there was no reason for me to kick doors open. They can be opened just as fast with a competent person on the tool. The other thing I noticed was kicking doors was wasted experience, it was a perfect opportunity to hone your skills with the Irons on a real door in a real frame. Thus building your confidence and not letting all of your experience be based on a forcible entry prop. Lastly, when luck runs out, because at some point it will, a person who is competent on their Irons now has multiple options and is very proficient in them because they have been forcing doors with the Irons for most of their career instead of kicking them for 15 years. Attacking doors based on knowledge rather then luck will give you a much stronger foundation when it’s time to force the doors that are out of the ordinary. You will find doors you cannot kick, and when you do, and the luck of kicking runs out, you will set the tone for the fire ground with a real bad forcible entry situation. To many people are relying on us to base our operations on luck.  Long live skillful Irons work!

These doors are all out of occupied residential homes.


Coordinated Vertical Ventilation (Arrival, Cut, Aftermath)

Posted 03/23/2014 by IRONSandLADDERS
Categories: 4. Ventilation

(Note: Brian Brush and myself were having a discussion early this morning about these photos. They are some of the better photos I have seen in a long time showing vertical ventilation in coordination with an interior attack. Rarely do we get photos that give you an accurate look of the building upon arrival, as the lines are being stretched, the hole being cut, the smoke lifting and the vent hole igniting, and then wrapping it up with a great photo as the engine makes a hit on the fire. We both thought it was worthy of discussion and definitely photos worth sharing with everyone for their own vertical vent training. I provided Brian with the photos and some of the on scene tactics and he put the article together for us. Thanks Brush!     – Ryan Royal)

Let us first begin with a review of what UL is saying, not from my interpretation but from the source themselves. UL exists to present data not dictate tactics. As you can see from the list presented in the slide to the left from their presentation they feel there is a need to clearly address several points which some in the fire service are misinterpreting, one of which is vertical ventilation.

Image 9

From what I have gathered from the UL studies and presentation of their data there are several key points.

-Fires in enclosed structures are ventilation controlled

-Ventilation will intensify fire behavior

-Ventilation must be performed in a timely and coordinated manner in order to be effective and not counter productive

Heat is a fire’s greatest strength and most predictable attribute, it wants to go up. Using the thermal column to ventilate fires has allowed us to live and work around fires in enclosed spaces for thousands of years. Because of the simplicity and reliability of the chimney effect, using heat to ventilate should be the first option considered. Vertically venting also takes a great deal of the fire’s energy out of our plane of operation as we typically operate horizontally in structures with our stretches and searches.

There are a few key problems with utilizing heat as a ventilation method on most fires. The first is that unless it is a top floor fire the opportunity to get over the fire is not as readily available as horizontal options (windows and doors). The second is that once on the roof an opening must be created using saws which causes “damage”.

Aside from these two physical factors there is an overwhelming mental limitation to the utilization of vertical ventilation. The first limitation is the fear of working over fire. Be it searching the floor above for VES or vertically venting there is an almost instantaneous reduction in acceptance of the tactic due to “risk”. The thing is that many times between the roof decking and the room you have the compartment of the attic as a buffer. Too often this is lost on people who are predisposed to critique the viability of the tactic.

Image 8

In the first picture the hole in the decking has been cut and the smoke pushing is from a charged but uninvolved attic space. At this point no structural members of that roof are being exposed to fire however within the compartment of the top floor of the residence a significant fire is working and filling out the occupancy with smoke and heat. You can see the firefighter punching in the lid of the room with his pike pole which drops the ceiling and vents the room up and out. In the picture to the right you now see “heavy fire” but the lack of smoke displays a clean burn.  At this point the fire is impacting structural members of the attic space but the operation is complete and firefighters are off the roof. In many vertical ventilation scenarios the “10 minute ticker” of light weight construction isn’t started until firefighters have executed their mission which allows plenty of time for suppression.

The second mental limitation is the lack of confidence that vertical ventilation can be executed in a timely enough fashion to be coordinated. Working with ladders takes practice to get proficient but in this proficiency you will find the quickest route to efficiency as 80% of the time it take to preform vertical ventilation is getting to the objective. Quickly performing vertical ventilation also takes a game plan, rehearsal and even choreography all of which are barriers but none of which cannot be overcome.

As with anything there are no absolutes. You may be working in a department where getting one company to the scene to stretch a line in a timely manner is a problem let alone two companies arriving together to work in a coordinated manner. But for many of you I think it is important to note that with practice, training and understanding, many suburban districts where two companies are arriving in close proximity, will have 1 and 2 story single family dwellings that have roofs accessible by standard ground ladder compliments allowing for coordinated vertical ventilation as an option.

This series of pictures is from Colorado Springs Fire Department. CSFD sends 2 engines and 2 trucks to a single family home 1st alarm.  This is a midsize department consisting of 21 Engine Co’s, 6 Truck Co’s and a Rescue Co for a population of about 500,000 people. They serve everything from urban areas, suburban neighborhoods to urban interfaces. Do not get lost in who CSFD is and focus on this residence and the fact that three essential fire ground operations are being executed in coordination by the first two companies.

Image 5 - Version 2

This first picture is just after arrival of Engine 8 and Truck 8. While E8 is stretching across the yard T8 Irons crew will assess forcible entry and prepare to search and T8 ladders crew is the team going to the roof. You can see how charged the occupancy is with smoke pushing from eaves around the entire structure.

Once teams make entry on this type of fire, the conditions interior will confirm one of two things from what is observed on the outside. The fire is an involved compartment fire that has difficult conditions interior and is also pressurizing the attic. Or we will find that conditions interior are showing light to moderate smoke with no obvious fire and at that point we should be considering strictly an attic fire, or an outside fire that is moving in. Which this specific fire was.

Multiple ladders are thrown and access is made to the area suspected to be closest to the fire. This was determined by smoke conditions of the eves and of the roof vents near the ridge line. Access to the cutting area is done utilizing the hip of the roof for stability and using your hook to provide solid sounding of the roof decking. Once at the ridge a roof survey can be quickly visualized to confirm fire location and roof stability.


Once the position was chosen, the roof decking is cut and  the charged attic space dumps very pressurized smoke out of the opening.

Image 2 Image 1

The smoke quickly ignites, a thermal column develops and is intensifying the fire but increased fire activity and energy is largely channeled up and out.

Image 6 - Version 2

You can see in this picture the overall presentation of the structure is cleaned up and you have free burning out the vent hole. Less than a minute after the hole is cut T8 ladders crew is on the ground.

Image 7

Shortly after that E8 now has very clear access and an obvious fire location above them, they pull ceiling from below and hit the fire in the attic. The steam conversion is observed as it too is now channeled up and out the vent opening. This is about as text book an example of coordinated vertical ventilation as you can find. Executed largely on a foundation of clear expectations, solid understanding, and constant training.


The take home here is that while CSFD potentially has a bigger first alarm assignment than your district this was handled largely by 8 people. While T8 is a 109’ aerial, this was executed with a chainsaw and a ladder compliment found as standard on most all engines in smaller departments.

Stop letting people tell you what you can’t do and start looking at what can be done.


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