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The Rig: Attention to Detail

By Ricky Riley

We are very proud to say we received our first new rig that I was a part of from start to finish. We have a few more steps to get through before we put the truck out serving the public. I am sure we will write and post more about this ladder truck in the near future. While we were in the engineering portion of the design and all the way up to the final delivery from the manufacturer, we were benefited by members of the organization’s apparatus committee. Our shop personnel ensured the mechanical side of the rig was sound and up to the county’s specifications. The operational side of the truck was led by the firefighters who actually are going to ride the rig day in and day out. Their attention to the little details on the apparatus was refreshing to see and a testament to their dedication to their craft of firefighting. In this segment of The Rig, I want to share with you two details that the crew made sure worked for them and their new ride.

Ground ladders are a staple of safety for our firefighters and the civilians we are sworn to protect. The apparatus was specified with 270 feet of ground ladders placed in a rear ladder tunnel, side-mounted, on the aerial fly section, and in cross compartments. They are a little consumed with ground ladders to say the least—if they could have found space, I am sure they would have put some more on. At the final inspection, one of the details that the committee noticed was the placement of the New York roof hooks in the ladder tunnel at the rear. With most rigs, several long hooks and some standard hooks are usually stored in the ladder tunnel.

Not much attention is usually paid to the placement of these hooks, as they might affect the deployment of the ground ladders. What they found was that the standard tubes for the roof hooks allowed the hook end to intrude on the ladder bank at the end of the chutes for the ladders. This meant that anytime that they wanted to deploy a ladder they would have to move the hook out of the way and hope that it stayed out of the way or take the hook out completely to remove the obstruction of the ladder deployment. The committee expressed its concern with the manufacturer and wanted it to ensure nothing blocked removing ground ladders. They spread the tubes out a little bit, and notched each tube to hold the New York roof hooks in a correct position to not block the ladders. This resulted in a number of the hooks being stored—some vertically and some horizontally—to ensure the clearance needed for the ground ladders. This attention to detail will pay off on the fireground when the unit is placed in service.

The next detail was stowing the nozzle for the prepiped waterway. With a response district that is full of older strip shopping centers and apartment complexes with large cockloft areas, the company wanted the option to perform a sidewalk sweep accompanied with the ability to use an upward sweeping motion below the roofline with the master stream to penetrate the cocklofts. This particular aerial has a pinnable waterway that allows for the nozzle and piping to extend the full length of the ladder or just remain on the bed section. With a focus on expanding the aerial’s capabilities as a firefighting tool, the committee asked a number of questions to facilitate the expanded use of the waterway nozzle and how to reach areas of fires based on the restrictions of being on a straight aerial. This sidewalk sweep tactic made famous by the tower ladder’s ability to be at ground level and shoot up into the building and into the attic spaces was normally difficult for ladder trucks to achieve. On our new rig, the chauffer asked the manufacturer if it could achieve similar operational functions as a tower ladder might be able to do with our straight aerial device.

Now let’s not pretend the straight aerial ladder can achieve the same efficiency and effectiveness of a tower ladder in the case of a sidewalk sweep. With the modifications that were made, this unit can certainly start the water application in the right spots and move that water across the sidewalk area similar to but not with the same immediate impact as the tower ladder. Sorry, straight ladder truck, but real tower ladders were made for this specific tactic.

So, what we ended up with was a shorter egress section on the end of the last fly section but enough to protect the nozzle when in the stowed position. The nozzle, instead of hanging down and facing forward, was positioned to the right at a 90-degree angle to the left of the centerline of the ladder. This tucked the nozzle out of the way of the drivers view while driving down the road and still protected it with a small portion of the last rungs and beams of the aerial device. Now when the chauffer wants to position for the sidewalk sweep or penetration of water into an attic, he just moves the remote-controlled nozzle down to centerline and in an up position, and the length of the associated swivel and nozzle have the end of the nozzle clear of the end of the ladder and able to shoot a stream upward into a structure.

These two details are just two of the many operational options and designs that were put into this rig. This attention to functional details should be given great consideration for your next apparatus purchase. Listen to the firefighters who ride the rigs, and pay attention to their problems and solutions for their response areas. Departments will be surprised how well their apparatus will function when the details/designs that were suggested by your committee members translate to success on your firegrounds.

Thanks for checking in on another segment of “The Rig

RICKY RILEY is the fire apparatus manager for the Prince George’s County (MD) Fire/EMS Department. He previously served as the Operations Chief for Clearwater (FL) Fire and Rescue, and as a firefighter for Fairfax County (VA) Fire & Rescue. He also currently serves as the rescue-engine captain at the Kentland (MD) Volunteer Fire Department. He is a member of the editorial advisory board of Fire Apparatus & Emergency Equipment.

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