Ladder apparatus

Fire apparatus designed to carry ladders are known as Trucks. Early Trucks were simply carts with ladders, they also typically carried some buckets to form bucket brigades. In Colonial America it was a common practice for these vehicles to carry large hooks which were used to help pull down burning buildings to prevent the spread of the fire to the rest of the village. This is where the traditional name of hook and ladder began. Modern ladder apparatus often includes an elevated nozzle but until the 1930's aerial ladders and water towers were separate pieces of apparatus.


Ladder wagon Water-tower


Trucks are fairly simple in purpose, they carry ladders to fires or other emergencies. To qualify as a Truck a vehicle must carry a minimum combined total of 115 feet of ground ladders (an older standard required 163 feet). Many actually carry over 200 feet of ground ladders and also have a large powered ladder on a turn table known as an aerial. Trucks do not carry water or a pump although most do carry a small amount of hose to assist hooking up to a pumper that may supply water to an elevated nozzle. Truck crews often perform various fire ground support missions such as search & rescue, forced entry, ventilation, checking for fire extension and securing the buildings utilities. Because of these other tasks Trucks usually carry a wide variety of equipment in addition to ladders.

Because of their specialized nature most Trucks are built on a custom chassis but they can be built using a commercial chassis. The earliest aerial device was a large wooden ladder mounted on the vehicle, these first became available shortly after the American Civil War. Also used at the time were water towers, an elevated nozzle on a long pipe that could be raised to provide water to upper floors of tall buildings. Both of these devices were manually operated. By the turn of the Century these ladders were available in lengths up to 100 feet and various means of power assist were added including compressed air, spring power and eventually hydraulics. Metal ladders made from steel or aluminum became available in the 1930's, these ladders were strong enough to combine an elevated nozzle and water way into the ladder making the single purpose water towers obsolete. Water-towers began to fall into decline as metal ladders were adopted but the water-tower continued in use through the 1960's, and a handful were still in service into the 1970's. Aerial ladders were simply large powered ladders until the 1950's, since then several variations of the aerial ladder have been developed.


The most basic type of Truck is often called a Community Services Truck, City Services Truck or just a Service Truck, it is really nothing more than a vehicle mounting a complement of ground ladders and useful fire ground support equipment such as power saws, cutting torches, salvage covers, and portable lighting. These vehicles are often built on a commercial chassis or are a conversion of an older vehicle.

Community Services Truck

The standard Truck is a vehicle mounting a complement of ground ladders and a powered elevating ladder and / or platform on a turn table. There are 4 styles of aerial device, the first and most common is just a large powered extension ladder, the next adds a platform to the end of the ladder, this type is also known as a Tower-Ladder or Ladder-Tower, the third uses an articulating boom with a platform, popularly known as a Snorkel. The last is a telescoping boom with a platform, also known as an aerial-scope. The telescoping boom usually has a light weight ladder attached along the topside of the boom. A variation of the Snorkel that combines some features of the Aerial-scope is the Bronto-Lift, it is a telescoping articulated boom.

Aerial devices range in length from 50 to 220 feet with the most common sizes falling between 75 and 105 feet. In addition to ladders Trucks typically carry a wide variety of firefighting and rescue tools.





Articulating aerial platform (Snorkel) Telescoping aerial platform (Aerial-scope)

There are a few variations on the standard Truck:

Tractor Drawn Aerials are tractor-trailer type aerials that have a second driver who steers the rear wheels from the back of the trailer section. This results in a smaller turning circle and better maneuverability. These vehicles are commonly known as a Tiller or Tiller truck

Tractor Drawn Aerial

Quads are pumpers with a full complement of ground ladders, they do not have an aerial device. The name Quad refers to the fact the vehicle has the three elements of a Triple Combination Pumper (water, hose, pump) and combines it with the Trucks complement of ground ladders. 



Quints are pumpers with a full complement of ground ladders and an aerial device. It takes the elements of the Quad and adds a fifth element, the aerial device. The advantage of a Quint is it can do everything that a Truck or a Pumper can, the drawbacks are its expense, weight and size. Quints are inefficient replacements for pumpers since they carry less hose and have smaller water tanks than a Pumper of similar size. They are also much more expensive than a pumper. However as a Truck they can offer several advantages. Since they don't need a separate pumper, they take up less space on the fireground where parking is often at a premium, this also allows the pumper that would have been assigned to support a truck to be used elsewhere. They can also be used like a pumper for small fires or if they arrive first since they have a pump and water. While more expensive than a regular truck they are comparable in price to buying a ladder truck and a pumper which is effectively what a Quint is. It might seem like all departments would want Quints but the downside is increased weight, increased operating expense and a loss of storage space for equipment.      



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