Boston Ladders, “Choreographed Ballet”


Recent fires and FDIC previews






Boston firefighters recently ran a multiple-alarm fire that captured the attention of a bystander who took to Twitter to share how impressed he was with the ladder work.  Read through to see how you can learn some more on their ladder operations and FDIC 2016.


A fire in Brighton received the Twitter comments above. Below are department photos from the fireground.



Boston firefighters also responded to a gas-fed basement fire in a Hyde Park apartment house that led to multiple rescues including some over ground ladders on 21 November. Five people were injured as well as two firefighters. Below are photos, courtesy of the Boston Fire Department from the scene on Greenwood Avenue.


At FDIC 2016 attendees will have the opportunity to learn about Boston’s ladder work and the details of a mayday from a past fire that involved a Boston firefighter.  Lieutenant Shawn Donovan is back for a second year presenting “A History of Boston’s Ladder Culture”.

Random and FDIC 2015 061

It’s a truck class – You shouldn’t expect a neat sign.

“The focus is on the ground ladder as a proven effective life-safety tool.  Students journey through the history and evolution of the ground ladder in Boston, Massachusetts.  Included are Boston’s fire academy practices and drills, field drills, standard operating procedures and standards relevant to ground ladder work, ground ladder tactical considerations, and various ladder throws and methods.  Also featured are many documented incidents of how ground ladders were used to effect life safety.”

I sat in on Shawn’s class this year while working at FDIC primarily because I’ve always been interested in the department and because I had a glimpse of his program before the presentation.  I recommend it for two main reasons; first is the history of how the city was developed and that impact on the fire department’s operations.  It’s always a benefit to learn the why and how of any department especially if your department is looking to borrow some tactic to see if it fits in their world.  Second, Shawn did a very good job of making it more than a “come hear the big city guy talk” class.  Throughout his presentation he added just enough war stories, personal experience and a few points that are always good for discussion on their own (tips in the window or tips at the sill?).  The 2016 class has been changed up a little which should make it another class worth attending even if you went this year.

Below is Shaw’s FDIC 2016 preview video. See if you can fit it into your schedule once you register.



Captain Ryan McGovern is another Boston fire officer and friend who will be presenting at FDIC next year. Ryan was injured after falling through a floor during a house fire in Jamaica Plain in November 2013. The Boston Herald did a story on this fire where Ryan explained what happened and his self-rescue.

At FDIC you will have the opportunity to learn more from Ryan when he presents “Living Through My Mayday”.

“In November 2013, the instructor became trapped in a structure during suppression operations. He had fallen through a floor and was hanging between the first floor and the basement. He tried numerous times to call a Mayday, but no one heard his call for help until he activated the emergency alert button on his portable. While awaiting the rapid intervention team, he was able to self-extricate out of the structure. As a result of his becoming trapped, he received second- and third-degree burns to his lower extremities and spent a short stint in the burn unit. Students are taken through the steps that led up to this incident. The focus is on dealing with this type of incident more effectively and preventing it altogether.”


If you are able to attend FDIC 2016 these are two classes I personally recommend. I’ll highlight more in later posts. Register now and consider nominating someone in your department for the Honeywell, DuPont Scholarship as well. See you in Indy!



Photo courtesy of author. Pointe shoes courtesy of his daughter.



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BioPicBill Carey is the online public safety news and blog manager with PennWell Public Safety, or more specifically FireRescue Magazine/,, and Bill started in the fire service, as a third generation firefighter in 1986, on the eastern shore of Maryland and then continued after moving to Prince George’s County. He served as a volunteer sergeant and lieutenant at Hyattsville. Bill’s writing has been on, Fire Engineering, FireRescue Magazine,, the Jones and Bartlett 2010 edition of “Fire Officer: Principles and Practice”, The Secret List and His recent writing on firefighter behavioral health was been nominated for 2014 Neal Award for Best Subject-Related Series.

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