November Training Prompt:How Is Your Truck Work Defined?

November’s training prompt challenges you to look at one important part of truck work: Ladders.





Truck work, or ladder company operations, do not require a ladder company apparatus. Having a 100′ aerial or a 75′ tower ladder is a great advantage; however many of the key truck work basics do not require the “stick.” For some of you, these basics are covered by the firefighter riding across from you (he or she may be the forcible entry person on your engine company) or they may be covered by the second or third arriving company (ladders, search). If it happens that these assignments are made up as you get to the scene, or once the chief arrives, well, heaven help you – and anyone trapped inside.

Truck 9 (Bladensburg) had to hop the sidewalk, remove a split-rail fence, and serpentine several trees to get a good Side Alpha position at this Berwyn Heights apartment fire.
(Bill Carey photo)

November’s training prompt takes a look at how you define your truck work, namely by the ladders you throw – or don’t throw. In Prince George’s County, young firefighters have it instilled in them that if they are assigned to throw ladders, they must not stop until they run out of ladders. Some houses may even go as far as taking ones off of the painter’s van down the street. An exaggeration of course, but it does emphasize the degree of instruction and company pride. The ‘pace’ of the fireground and some neighborhood characteristics (garden apartments, courtyard apartments, limited access) dictate that ladders go up immediately, not only for the possibility of occupants but for the additional engine companies as well. It is also noted that the need for ladders doesn’t back off if the truck is not yet on the scene. Many good, heads-up wagon drivers and layout firefighters will use the ladders off their engine instead of sitting back and letting it fall to the truck companies.



Think about your department, your shift, and consider the following:



1. Do we practice like we fight? Do we treat the alarm for what it could be or are we reactive and let the fire dictate our responses?

2. When was the last time we worked on properly throwing ladders? Not the slow, methodical fire recruit way, but the one- and two-man raises, dropping it into the window, working fast.

3. Is our engine setup to have the extension ladder on the outside or is it kept behind the roof ladder?

4. Have the previous fires we’ve been to depicted good, fair or bad truck company operations? Why?

5. What addresses are in my response area that have a layout making it difficult to do truck work?

6. If there is no ladder company on our assignments, who is doing the ladder company work?

7. How many ladders, on average, can my truck company throw by the time the first hoseline has begun darkening down the fire? How many by the time the backup hoseline has been stretched?









Photos courtesy Mark Brady, PGFEMS PIO. Image and Truck 9 photo courtesy author.





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9 Comments

  • Fern says:

    I’ll take it from the photos that some houses didn’t they teach the new guys to take the window out if they’re going to throw a ladder to it.

  • Fern says:

    Doesn’t that defeat the purpose of laddering?

  • Bill Carey says:

    Yes and no. First, let me state that in this post, or in any other post, especially regarding training or news of fire incidents, that I never state that any one company or department is perfect. There is no such thing as the perfect fireground. Secondly, “throwing the ladder” and “taking the window” are synonymous so long as the target window is of the fire apartment or an exposed apartment. In some instances we may ladder a window, simply to place it in a ready position, of a apartment unit across the common hall/stair from the fire apartment. Conditions showing at the time may not require dropping the fly section into the sash. Finally, for many companies the truck driver is throwing the ladders, and may be the only one doing so until the second truck arrives. In a county neighboring mine, the staffing on engines and truck companies is three. The truck driver is busy throwing his ladders. Once done, if need be, he can ascends and clean out the sash. Another department I am familiar with relies on the responding medic unit to throw ladders. While they may not all be properly “cleaned out”, they are getting thrown. It’s a good question, clearing windows, that adds to the training discussion. What does your department teach and do?

    Bill Carey

  • Bill Carey says:

    Also, to add more to my reply, given the nature of fire behavior and new lessons we are learning, we may not want to vent that window with the ladder just yet. This brings into the discussion communication and coordination between the engine company, and the truck’s interior and exterior teams.

    Bill Carey

  • Fern says:

    Bill, I can’t really say what my department’s official policy is. The one structure fire I’ve been able to go to in my short (less than 3 years) time frame as an explorer, was a contents fire in a basement. And at that incident, no ladders were thrown.

    I’ve been taught to ladder the building, but I’ve never been taught anything regarding the window. Obviously, if you’re going to take the window, you’d better make damn sure that you’re not going to make a vent in a wrong spot. A few people on the interio make take issue with that. ;/

    But I’ve never been told, when placing a ladder for rescue, that you always take the window or not.

  • Dave LeBlanc says:

    Another thought, stolen from Nate DeMarse, is that once a ladder is thrown as Bill described…..across the hall/adjoining apt….that it is important htis message is passed on to all companies on the fireground.

    This is in keeping with John Norman’s philosophy that you need to always have more than one way to exit.

  • Gucciman37 says:

    Truck company work is a super important part of the fire ground and has to be performed regardless of it being a basement fire, kitchen fire, etc. I wouldn’t rely soley on the pictures you see to make a final judgement on the windows being cleared or not. In Prince Georges County both volunteer and career, the members are very disciplined to their assignment both on the truck and wagon. In some cases the OVM will throw the ladders initially breaking the windows and then go back to clear them , this is farely common. A thought behind it is the more ladders thrown right away the better chance a firemen will be able to get out if things get bad right off the rip.

    Initially starting my career in the fire service in upstate New York, truck company work lacks in my opinion. At a majority of the fies I have run I have never seen a truck company perform true truck duties or even throw ladders , I guess it’s just a different thought process. I say that in general and am not speaking of any one specific department.

    Training is the key to success. That is proven but it has to be good training and perfect training. ” Perfect practice, makes perfect”

  • Gary Lane says:

    This is one of the better discussions out there right now! Great photos and comments! The “why” of throwing ladders is an often overlooked topic other than “for life/for vent” at many places across the country. Great to have all these resources available (via Internet) to get us all motivated for the fight! Thank you!

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