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Things that drive me crazy! (or crazier)

I suppose we all have pet peeves. As anal as I am, I have more than my share. One of them is what is shown in the photo above. Now, to be fair, no water is flowing (yet) and I am sure that the men and women of the Pawtucket fire department are among the best in the country. But - what's the firefighter doing at the tip of the aerial?
In my opinion, he or she is in one of the most dangerous positions a firefighter can put themselves in - and for what?

Some truths:
* What almost 100% certainty, What ever is burning will not be put out. It will burn itself out.
* The structure is lost. Destroyed!
* Exposed buildings and other "stuff" needs to be protected. Aerials are good for this to be sure.
* Here is a brief list of the bad things that can happen to the person on the aerial:
1) The aerial truss assembly can fail and collapse with the firefighter still on it.
2) The fire below can rapidly intensify or otherwise explode (looks like an industrial site) exposing
the firefighter to direct flame impingement.
3) The driver/operator at the turntable can accidently hit a lever and injure the firefighter.
4) The aerial jack(s) can fail, causing the aerial to tilt and possibly fall.
5) If throwing water, there can be a sudden surge in water pressure, causing the tip to whip.
6) The firefighter can slip/fall (I know we are supposed to wear a belt when we are up there but......)
There are six bad things right off the top of my head that can happen that could hurt or kill a firefighter. I am sure there are more.
What are the advantages to having a firefighter up there?
* We can hit already destroyed "stuff" better.
* We can cover an exposure better (don't know what we can't see that from a safer location though).
* It looks "cool".
In Toledo, we had a policy that a firefighter can not be on the tip of a straight stick aerial "when water is flowing", and only for limited times otherwise. These simply is no reason to be up there.
A few final thoughts.
* I'm not talking about buckets or tower ladders - just straight sticks.
* If you have to send someone up there, have them do what needs to be done and then come down.
* It's simply not worth the risk.

What do you think??

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Comment by Jeff Schwering on October 23, 2010 at 8:02pm
Skip, I agree that no member should be at the top of a straight stick with water flowing, with that said, we are in the quint capital of the states. There have been times a chief has wanted an officer to go up the ladder to take a look, agreed the building is gone. More than two trumpets trump me. While I agree with you 100%, better me than one of my guys who might not think to put his belt on even after being told. If and when I've gone up, it was a quick up and back down.I've had some truck experience, these guys have climbing a ladder to get through the academy as experience.
Be Safe, How's the house coming?
Comment by Skip Coleman on October 23, 2010 at 6:21pm
Thanks for the comments. To answer your question: My thoughts on "seeing" better is a very simplistic thought. Almost always when we need to put the stick up, we burn the building down. Generally, it is lost before the stick goes up. Other than protecting exposures, does it matter what "rubble" we hit? That's my thought.
Comment by John Frank on October 23, 2010 at 4:58pm
I wanted to share some reinforcing experience on the safety of firefighters on straight sticks flowing water and also wanted to get your insight into a reason firefighters want to be up there (besides looking cool).

I know of three "near misses" where a firefighter was on a straight stick with water flowing:

1) During training there was a pressure surge that cause the aerial to whip back about 5 feet. I don't remember what causes the surge. The firefighter at the tip was belted in and was not knocked off.

2) A 50 foot telesqurt was positioned beyond the collapse zone. The wall did collapse. A big chunk slid out maybe 1.5 X wall height and hit the outrigger. It bumped the vehicle about an inch but to the operator at the tip it must have seemed huge. He was belted in and was ok.

3) A ladder pipe was not properly clamped to the rungs. It came off while flowing and knocked the firefighter loose. He was belted in. No doubt the ladder belt saved his life.

Now for my question. What is your thought on lack of ability to see exactly where the stream is going from the ground? This seems to be the main argument for being on the tip. Are possible solutions cameras at the tip, spotters on non-flowing aerials, more platforms, etc? I am originally from a city with where there are no platforms so that has not been an available option there.


Comment by Skip Coleman on October 23, 2010 at 7:26am
Michael, Thanks for the comment. Nice to see some of the older "salts" comment and mentor the younger crowd.
Comment by Michael Bricault (ret) on October 22, 2010 at 7:41pm
-Paul, I agree that photos can be deceiving but it is also my firm belief that as long as the nozzle can be operated from the turn table there is no justifiable reason to have a firefighter at the top of an aerial ladder like this.
Comment by Skip Coleman on October 22, 2010 at 4:05pm
Thanks Paul,
By the way - Congratulations on the book. I'll have you autograph mine in Indy if not sooner.
As far as the picture, I agree. I kinda feel bad for the guys and girls in Pawtucket. It was "what" that was on the picture, not "who". If Pawtucket was the only department that allowed this - then that would be one thing but it is in my opinion, a common place practice that is a funeral waiting to happen and in my opinion, it is totally unnecessary. Congrats again and as usual, thanks for the comment.
Comment by Paul Combs on October 22, 2010 at 8:14am
Hmmm, be interesting to see this photo from different angles. Photos can be deceiving and it's hard to tell what exactly is happening with a moment's snapshot. Was the stick 200 yards away or right on top of this fire? Was this firefighter up on the tip for only a moment or waiting for their perfect photo op that would look great on the next day's front page? Hard to tell.

Just adding my visual two-cents worth. Tactically and safely, everything you say is true, Chief - and I agree.

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