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On the Alpha: Positioning fire trucks for operational capacity

Leave prime real estate – and enough space – for the aerial truck to operate at 100% capacity

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The best way to perfect apparatus staging is actually going out and doing it – either by training or at actual calls – putting into practice the requirements of positioning your apparatus as needed.

Photo/Oklahoma City Fire Department

One of a fire truck driver’s major responsibilities is knowing how to position your apparatus when arriving on scene of a structure fire. The same holds true for the first arriving officer and or incident commander as they try to stage their resources as needed for what they are trying to accomplish.

Many strategies and conversations focus on apparatus staging, but nothing replaces talk better than action. The best way to perfect apparatus staging is actually going out and doing it – either by training or at actual calls – putting into practice the requirements of positioning your apparatus as needed.

Our corresponding video is a great example of how we want to position our apparatus for a structure fire.

Leave the Alpha open for the ladder truck

In this case, an auto body shop is on fire, which requires large water from both the ground and from above. The video shows a few trucks already on scene with the IC doing a 360-degree size-up and directing other incoming units.

Notice in the video the front (Alpha) of the building on the street side. It is wide open with the other two engines parked on the side street. There is one aerial ladder truck already in position on the Alpha side with lots of room for the other ladder trucks to arrive and stage.

Leaving the front of the building open for the ladder trucks is a good practice to follow – usually the first arriving fire truck will park right at the front occupying the best real estate for the aerial operation.

By having access to the Alpha side of the building, the aerial operations on the call will have complete access to the entire front of the building. This will allow for a 180-degree operation – as well as another side of the building if parked at the corner of the building.

Consider how much space is available for your aerial truck

You will also notice the amount of space available on the alpha side for the aerial trucks to set up. There is plenty of room for the aerial trucks to set their outriggers without being enclosed by other obstructions. With all the outriggers extended fully, the aerial truck is 100% effective – as opposed to short jacking the outriggers and only having 50% capacity of the turn table. As an aerial truck driver, this is one consideration I’m sizing up – how much room do I have to set up my truck?

When we get to the end of the video, we see three aerial ladders trucks positioned on the Alpha side set up and able to be used for aerial operations. This is truly maximizing the building’s real estate for truck placement and positioning. Had the engines parked right in front of the building, they would have blocked all access for the aerial trucks and would have required re-positioning the trucks at some point during the response.

Positioning trucks on the fire ground is not an easy task to accomplish – but with practice and diligence, it can be done right.

This article, originally published on October 18, 2018, has been updated

Mark van der Feyst has been in the fire service since 1998, currently serving as a firefighter with the Fort Gratiot Fire Department in Michigan. He is an international instructor teaching in Canada, the United States and India. He graduated from Seneca College of Applied and Technologies as a fire protection engineering technologist, and received his bachelor’s degree in fire and life safety studies from the Justice Institute of British Columbia and his master’s degree in safety, security and emergency management from Eastern Kentucky University. van der Feyst is the lead author of the book “Residential Fire Rescue” and “The Tactical Firefighter.” Connect with van der Feyst via email.