Posted tagged ‘ladder work’

Ladder Packages (3 story garden levels)


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…

VES-Vent Enter Search – Apartment Fire Video



Here is a video that I filmed about a year ago on a 3 alarm apartment fire, it was a long process but I was finally able to get approval to release it publicly.  This is footage from the perspective of the first due Truck Co’s outside team. It was made into a training video that was used for a department wide training and discussion video to talk about the good and the bad from my actions. By no means do I think this is a perfect performance, but I do think it is valuable and provides good footage of a fire that was almost a textbook example of when VES can be utilized. Take a look and see what you think. It is filmed in HD, so if you watch it on YouTube you can make it full screen.

The fire was very close to our firehouse, less than a 2 minute response.  We had no signs of a header on the way to the complex and besides the multiple caller updates from dispatch, we had nothing indicating that this fire was so far ahead of us. Dispatch updated us that we had reports of a party trapped on the first floor.(Verbally told on scene that people were in the 2nd floor) Engine 8 and Truck 8 arrived together. Engine 8 made the decsion to bypass the plug on the way in because of the density of this driveway and complex, along with the fact that is was across the street and would have shutdown all incoming units. This was due to walking this complex numerous times and having a plan ahead of time, Engine 7 also arrives very quickly into this area and only delays a good water supply for a short amount of time. The red 3″ you see being pulled off of E8 is a from a static bed and is what we use for apartment lays, they attached a 2 1/2 shoulder load to the end of this 3″ supply. Truck 8 backed into the complex to give us better access with the aerial if needed, there’s a large amount of overhead lines in this area of the complex.

Truck 8 is a crew of 4 and splits into two person teams, and Irons team and a Ladders teams. Irons handled the front side utilizing conventional searches through the front door of the most threatened units. 6 units were involved on the front side and had completely burned away the stairs on the front. After taking a look at the front side while my driver packed up, we determined Vent Enter Search from the backside would get us inside searching the quickest. The T8 ladders team is who went to the backside to perform this. A few reasons I think VES applies to a fire like this.

– We had numerous reports over the radio and verbally on scene that people were trapped in the fire units

-This fire was at 7pm, for a fire to grow this rapidly during a very busy time around this complex and be that far ahead of us when we are only two minutes away indicated to me that this fire spread very rapidly and cut off the main egress for 6 units.

-Fire attack will be slightly delayed. Searches in the fire units could not be done without a good knockdown, the engine had to perform an apartment lay and put a 2 1/2 into operation. Searches from the front would have been extremely delayed.

-Fire involvement and damage to the stairs. Most of the stairs had been burnt out which also would have delayed searches from the front.

-Occupants will go opposite of the fire. If people were in these units then our best chance would be to find them hanging out of windows on the backside, or unconscious in the back rooms where they were trying to shelter themselves from the fire.

-Heavy attic involvement. We had a large amount of fire extending through the attic. VES gave us short quick searches and kept us close to egress points if something was to change.

We made the move to the backside and determined the upper floor end three units were the most threatened. We started our searches there, the first window had the door closed and was only smoky. This room was cleared fairly quickly. We then broke the window on the first floor below and we could see the room was clear of occupants underneath the smoke. The next window on the second floor was charged heavily with smoke and had the door open. My driver was able to make it in and close the door, then continue his search. This was a children’s room that had a bunk bed and signs of maybe up to three kids living in this room. The third room also had the door open, it was smoky and hot, the door was open and had some rollover extending from the living room. Door was controlled and the room was searched, this was the adults bedroom of the same unit. This room had a playschool car inside that was being used as a childs crib for a infant. No occupants were found in this fire.

The Good points:

– We were able to give the citizens their best chance by utilizing VES on the side of the building with the most survivable space.

– The engine made a great knockdown by choosing the appropriate line. This protected the VES crew, prevented us from burning the attic off, and prevented the second building from becoming completely involved.

– Aggressive forcible entry and search allowed the Irons team to search 8 apartments in a very short amount of time

-Vertical ventilation by Truck 1 was done ahead of the fire units and was well placed to prevent extension through the common attic.

-Using the 24′ extension ladder when doing multiple windows helps you adjust to the changing grade of the backside.

The Bad Points

– When the first window was broken I should have been ready to immediately make entry. My thought process was to evaluate if we could even make entry due to the amount of fire involvement and attic involvement. I still should have been ready and I could have been faster.

– We broke the next window and searched it visually. This was to save time and move to the next most threatened upper floor unit. We should have taken the extra 20 seconds to jump into that window and control the door to prevent the fire from continuing that way underneath us.

-Blinds should always be torn down before you make entry, in the last window the blinds were melted and soft. They got tangled on my neck and roof hook which delayed me almost a minute inside the zero visibility. This could have been totally prevented.

Overall the video turned out pretty good and I think the first due companies made pretty aggressive good work of this fire. I don’t mind putting myself out there and releasing videos like this because I think they hold a great amount of value to be able to sit down and talk about different things to consider, especially when utilizing a tactic like VES which I truly believe is valuable. VES, Vent Enter Search, VEIS (which is what we are calling it now), whatever your department calls it does not matter. What matters is that you have trained on it realistically, trained on when and where it applies, and have made it an option in your departments tactics. It is highly effective at giving the citizens their best chance for survival.  I am always open for discussion and if you have any questions just comment below or email us.

Ladder Rescue Mishap


Here is an ugly one out of Europe I believe, judging by the PPE. I liked it because it is a scenario that any of us could face, and hopefully we can learn from this one to improve the way things go for us. I for one like practicing ladder work a lot, I feel it is the only way to keep sharp on placement and height. This is a great example of when you are only going to get one chance to pick your spot, and one chance to get the height right, because as seen here, when the ladder goes into the building the people are coming down (no matter how you placed it). I think some solid advice that I have been taught is go for a shallow angle over a steep one anytime you can. Obviously this increases the chance that the butt will slip, but if we have a guy to foot the ladder or are in soft ground then why not, it may just prevent us from coming down on our backs with a victim on our chest. Anyways, here is a quick take on what we noticed in this video.     

Once one thing goes wrong it all starts going down hill. You can see they come up short with the ladder and place it at a real steep angle. They go up to make the attempt anyways, right about the time the victim decides enough is enough and lets go. They still have one victim hanging (who has been hanging for a long time) who we can almost count on following suite with the first. To add insult to injury you notice one of the Engine guys stretching hose falls onto his back  over one of the Ladder guys that is lying on the ground. 

 Here is a little bit of the time breakdown: 
1:08 – Camera zooms back far enough you can see the fire on the far right..Do you think that is a stairwell due to the uneven window height?
1:20 – First victim falls (that is a long time to hold your body wieght….at least for me it is)
1:55 – 2nd firefighter starts to go up for the rescue, you can see him hesitate a few times, which makes me think he can tell they are about to fall.
2:00 – Engine guy falls over the injured firefighter, also the 2nd victim falls taking out another firefighter.   

Vodpod videos no longer available.

  What do you think? There is some good discussion points. Ladder placement, ladder height, smoke conditions, and fire location. Good video, I came across it through an email that one of the Brotherhood Instructors sent out (A. Brassard), thanks to him and whoever else had a part in getting this video out there.



The Two Knuckleheads wanted to remind you about  the next class they have been working on presented by Captain Pat Nichols. The guys behind this have put in a lot of their time and own money to offer a low priced class that is accessible to firefighters in the area. They have worked hard to do their part in making us all better at our jobs. I want to thank them for sending over the information and please contact them soon to get your seat.

Click the picture for an update written by the Two Knuckleheads regarding the class and payment instructions

If you have not seen the original printable flyer for this class you can look at an updated version below. This gives you the details of the classes, time and location.

May 3rd Class Flyer (Printable Version)

Portable Ladder or Portable Stairs?



Here is an idea to keep in the back of your mind if you encounter the same problem. These companies had a fire on the top floor of a 1  1/2 story house a few months ago.  The house is located in a neighborhood on the eastern edge of downtown that has its fair share of urban decay. When advancing the line they found the stairway leading up had some damage. Enough damage to require some assistance making the top floor. The Engine had pulled back and advanced up an exterior ladder that was in place to the top floor and made a knock down. While the Engine made their way up, the Truck company was able to place a 16′ ladder in place over the area of the stairs that was damaged. This provided a sturdy and safe way to secure another route of egress for the Engine upstairs, and access for the Truck that ended up helping them confine the fire to its room of origin. Once the fire was knocked down it turned into the main pathway for the remainder of the incident.  This is where remembering little tricks that have been passed down to us pays off. Well done on thinking creatively and looking out for each other with a little ingenuity. Thanks for sending in the photos for everyone to share.

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.

Local Training Information


Two different groups are putting on some training around the area that we wanted to put out there for anyone interested. We have attached flyers for both of these classes where you can find further details and contact information. They should bring in some good training and I want to thank the people that have put in the time and energy towards bringing these classes to the area.

February 12th 2010, 9am till 4pm (This Friday)

 There will be a class presented in Denver titled “Developing Recipes for Operational Success”. This will be a roundtable type discussion on tactics regarding fires in many different types of building.  The instructors are from multiple different departments from across the country. 

Click Here for Details and Contact Information

May 3rd 2010, 9am

There will be a class presented in Colorado Springs with two different topics.  BFD Captain Pat Nichols will present a morning class reviewing lessons learned from the LODD “Tia-ho Reasturant Fire”.  The afternoon portion of the class will cover topics and lessons on “Ladder Work”.

Click Here  for Details and Contact Information

Please use the contact information of each of the companies that organize these classes ( Found on the links)..  Please DO NOT contact, or try to register  through We do not have any further information and are not running the registration for the classes. We had multiple people send emails trying to register for the last set of classes we linked to and we are not responsible if you miss out on a seat. Thanks

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