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Video: Fireground conditions dictate aerial positioning

Defensive mode means positioning farther away from the scene to avoid the collapse zone

Utilizing an aerial truck at structure fires is valuable, as it provides tactical advantages for the incident commander. Though not every fire department has an aerial in their arsenal to deploy for structure fires, most can request one through mutual or automatic aid.

Aerial advantages

One of the tactical advantages of having an aerial on scene is the ability to flow water from an elevated height while the apparatus is staged back from the structure. (Note: Operating an aerial truck is very different than operating an engine or a quint, even though a quint is an aerial-engine hybrid.)

How crews plan to use the aerial on scene will determine where to position the apparatus in relation to the structure. One simple method for assisting with this decision is to use the RECEO acronym to dictate aerial positioning: Rescue, Exposure protection, Confinement of fire, Extinguishment of fire and Overhaul.

In today’s training video, an aerial truck is used for exposure protection and to extinguish the blaze; these operations often indicate the fireground crew is operating in a defensive mode. In this scenario, the aerial truck should be positioned farther back to avoid the structure’s collapse zone, which should be established at a minimum of one-and-a-half times the height of the building. This is not always possible due to the surrounding buildings and infrastructure. In our video example, we see a partial building collapse around the 8:25 mark of the operation – the units operating on the scene were far enough back to be out of the collapse zone.

One of the main benefits of the aerial ladder is its reach, which allows the truck to be positioned further back to elevate the aerial device high enough and deliver water to the target. The reach of the aerial device will depend upon the available length of the aerial truck. A shorter 50-foot aerial ladder will have limited reach compared to a 100-foot aerial ladder. Be aware of the reach limitations that exist with the aerial device that your department has access to.

Becoming familiar with the aerial truck’s capability will only occur by using it on a repeated basis. This includes training scenarios and training drills on the aerial truck to prove what it can do for the department.

Training time

After watching the video and reading this article with your company, your department should:

  1. Practice how to determine a structure’s collapse zone based upon the height of buildings in your area, and have crews position the aerial truck out of a potential collapse zone.
  2. Set up the aerial truck and flow water at different angles and extended positions to discover the reach of the water stream from the tip.

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.