Introducing Training Mondays – Easy Ground Ladders

We would like to introduce Training Mondays to Every Monday we will strive to post new and original content that is available, free of charge, to the South Carolina fire service and beyond. We have sought out some great contributors, and will continue our search to bring you the very best online content available. This first submission comes from Christopher Gay with On Scene Training titled “Easy Ground Ladders.” Also, Stay tuned for the first of a 4 part series titled “Welcome To The Truck” from The Fire Mentor that will be posted later today.


   It’s three o’clock in the morning, and you arrive at a two-story, single family residence with heavy fire on the first floor and people trapped on the second floor.  As you come around the back of the house, you notice a person in the second floor window.  It’s a dark night, and the ladder has ripped your coat light off, so now you are in the dark.  It takes a few seconds to untie the halyard to raise the ladder.  As you’re raising, you think, “How many “clicks” to the second floor window for the rescue position?”  When you finally get it there, your partner arrives at the foot of the ladder.  You climb to assist the victim down and make the save.  Could this incident have gone better? The answer should always be a solid “Yes.”  To make some improved decisions, here are some details and time saving tips to better prepare you for success with ground ladders.

Fundamentally, you must understand the tool that you plan to use.  Almost every engine company in America has the same compliment of ladders from either Duo Safety or Alco-Lite.  There may be other brands, but it’s unknown to me.  The common length of ground ladders encountered are 24’ extension and 14’ roof ladders.

First, the Alco-Lite ladders with a 24’ extension ladder have a bedded length of 14’3” and a weight of 75lbs (the 14’ roof ladder weighing in at 42lbs).  The second ladder is the Duo Safety.   This ladder is a 24’ extension ladder with a bedded length of 14’ 2.5” and a weight of 72lbs (the 14’ roof ladder weighing in at 25lbs).  I prefer the use of a Duo Safety ladder due to its lighter weight and smooth beams–making a high shoulder carry and throw much easier on shoulders and gear.  Also, the lighter weights of these ladders make firefighter fatigue a little bit less of an issue.  On both of these ladders, the rungs are 14” apart, so every time you raise the fly section 1 “click,” the ladder will extend roughly 1ft.

Next of importance is placement.  Whenever bringing a ladder into position for rescue, the victim and your surroundings dictate how you place the ladder.  If a victim is unconscious on the window sill, you may have to scoop the victim with the ladder.  This is done by placing the tip of the ladder on the wall, under the victim, and pushing the tip up under, scooping the victim with the ladder.  Whenever you are placing the ladder for secondary egress, you want to place it in a rescue position located at the bottom of the sill just underneath the window.  This is a good position most of the time–except on hills.  On hills, you place the tip just inside the window casement on the downhill side of the window, so the ladder rests inside the window when it’s loaded, and wouldn’t shift when weight is placed on the ladder.

Let’s look at the S.W.A.G. method of getting ladders to windows.  Looking at the lengths of a 24’ extension ladder, one bedded (14’ 3”) will go to the 2nd floor easily, and the max reach (24’) should be expected to reach the 3rd floor window.  Neither of these would make a great climbing angle but could be used in a pinch.  You need to know that for every floor you go up, you should expect to come out away from the building roughly 5’, starting at about 10’ for the second floor.  This gives the climbing or rescue angle needed; however, it reduces the reach of our ladder by roughly 1’ per floor.  To obtain this angle for the second floor of a house, going 1 or 2 “clicks” up is recommended.  To obtain the 3rd floor,   9 “clicks” are needed.

Speed tips are crucial; the first being what ladder to grab first.  My “go-to” ladder is the 24’–it gives me plenty of reach in the area in which I work.  If I come around the back of a house and find a hill dropping off, what was a single story could now be a two-story, or a two-story can turn into a three.  They are readily available as they come on most engine companies. Often the problem getting to this ladder quickly is the fact that the 14’ roof ladder is found on the outside of the ladder rack on the side of the truck.  The problem is that when you grab the 14” ladder off, what should you do with it?  Setting it in front of the exhaust will damage it, while moving it off to the side will waste time when seconds count.  The remedy to this problem is to flip the ladders on the truck.  I know it’s not the way they have always been put on, but they won’t fall off, if put back on properly.  I have heard a few of these myths, but none have ever come true on my watch.

The next speed trick is to omit tying the fly and bed section of the ladder together.  Bring the halyard down and tie as low on the bed section as possible, and this will keep the rope neat and out of your way.  When it comes time to tie the ladder off, just use a bight in the rope.  Lastly, another great speed tip is to train with your ladders–the only time you touch them should not be to clean them but to clean, wax, and show some love to your ladders.





Christopher Gay – On Scene Training

Christopher Gay is a Company Officer in the Charleston County area who started his career in 2004.  He teaches Firefighting, RIT, and Technical Rescue Skills for both the South Carolina Fire Academy and On Scene Training Associates.  He can be reached for questions at

Also be sure to check out On Scene Training:

About Colt Roy

Editor and Photojournalist for Currently employed by the Department of Defense as a Firefighter/EMT. Past North Charleston Fire Department and Whitesville Fire Department. Colt is also the owner of 3 House Photography where his work that doesn't go to is published. You can also follow Colt's work at Heliweb Magazine where he serves as the Online Content Editor. Colt uses Canon gear and is currently shooting with 5D Mkiii and 6D cameras along with the 24-105 F4L, 70-200 2.8L IS ii, and 14 2.8L ii Canon lenses along with the Sigma 50 1.4 Art and 150-600 Sport lenses. Colt also uses a 360Fly HD 360 camera to capture events as they unfold.