Head First Ladder Bailout

This is a very recent video that was taken at a fire only a few days ago, you may have seen it around the web as it is on many different sites. Sorry it took us a while to get this one up.  To give you a little background of the fire it comes out of Randolph NJ. Firefighters were searching the 2nd floor for reports (by her sons who escaped) of an elderly lady trapped inside. Conditions changed rapidly and this firefighter made it to the second floor window. You can see him hanging by his feet in an attempt to get out of the conditions and preparing to jump. The video you see is a first hand view from the RIT team that was located near the backside. From what we have found the firefighter was injured but not seriously. Despite their efforts the occupant in the house died in this fire.

This turned into a great video for us to learn from. As always we are not interested in bashing this department, we respect them for putting this video out for all of us to learn from and we should do exactly that. The video gives us a grasp of how fast these situations can unfold, and also how our responses in the heat of the moment will not always go as planned. It appears the firefighter is very exhausted by the time the ladder gets to him and it seems difficult  for him to even grab the rungs.

I received some great insight and advice pertaining to this video in emails. They are some thoughts from many different senior and experienced firefighters from across the country and here locally. Here is a brief take on many of these guys thoughts put into one paragraph.

Ladder deployment and placement. With firefighters operating in less than desirable conditions on the second floor we must have as many ladders as possible thrown to the windows. When you are on fire you are coming out of the window, ladder or not. The RIT team was able to acquire a ladder and quickly deploy it to the firefighter hanging out the window. However in the heat of the moment you can see the ladder is at a steep angle making it more difficult. Ladders placed before conditions change gives us the extra second to set up a much easier angle to slide down for egress. When time is crucial and you have an extension ladder that only needs raised a few rungs don’t forget how you raise your extension ladder at home. Once you set it, push up on the rungs by hand until they extend right under the firefighter. Placing egress ladders in grass/dirt compared to concrete will change the angle we are able to operate on. We are afforded a much more shallow angle when we have soft footing to sink the butt into. We must be absolutely proficient in these techniques before the real time comes. Regardless if you train on head first bails all the way down the ladder, or the hook 2 grab 4 spin technique you must pick the one you are comfortable with and be solid in its use. We do not want to be trying to remember these escapes when it goes south and we are already exhausted.  We can use our feet on the window sill to gain control of our body weight until are hands are gripped tightly on the ladder. Regardless one of the number one pieces of advice is to get someone up the ladder to assist the firefighter. We can see how exhausted and possibly disoriented the firefighter in this particular video is. Getting help up to him and guiding him on the ladder, even if he still comes head first down will ensure he stays securely on the ladder. 

Thanks to A. Brassard for the link and email discussion and Thanks to Bryan and the guys at 10s for the heads up on the video.

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2 Comments on “Head First Ladder Bailout”

  1. TRUCK 4 Says:

    WOW!!! Well fortunately this was caught on video and we are able to learn from some “mistakes.” Irons and Ladders hit a lot of the problems on the head. I think that the biggest thing to learn from this is that a proactive RIC is what will prevent these types of situations from happening.

    Here are my thoughts:

    I think from the get go they were behind on this fire. From the sound of the wind on this video they really had a lot to work with.

    RIC appeared to only be one person. You have a team, use them. We should plan on putting a ladder to every possible window. Removing a working ladder from a crew in a not so safe location to rescue a crew member in an already bad location isn’t good practice. LADDERS DON’T do use any good if they are still on the truck. Practice makes perfect so every chance you get, throw ladders. Even if conditions do not warrant it. When the “big one” hits, it will be second nature.

    As stated above by IronsandLadders, go get that guy. For that many people to be standing around and not getting in a position to, at the very least, get a hand on that guy and let him know he’s ok isn’t good form. I think that all it would have taken was a quick shot up the ladder and a positive grip on his shoulder telling him that he is out would have changed the situation.

    Obviously we weren’t there, and hopefully we never get into that situation. But, good solid training on the Truck Co.’s to be proficient in RIC procedures as well as normal Truck Co. Operations will benifits us in the future. Just because your RIC does not mean you can’t work. Two people throwing ladders and softening the structure while the other two members are suited up ready to go in, that is proactive RIC. That’s what we should shoot for at every fire…EVERY TIME!

  2. TRUCK 4 Says:

    P.S. sorry for my long rant….

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