Plattsburgh Fire Department Conducts Night Ladder Truck Training

Sep 13, 2017

If you passed by SUNY Plattsburgh’s administration building Tuesday just after nightfall, you would have seen Plattsburgh Fire Department crews at the building.  They were not responding to an emergency but rather conducting night training with their new ladder truck. WAMC’s North Country Bureau Chief Pat Bradley was there.

The city of Plattsburgh recently replaced an aerial truck that had been in service for 20 years. The Kehoe Building is one of the tallest buildings on the SUNY Plattsburgh campus.  The fire department’s ladder truck is not in service every day, and the college’s high rise structure is an opportune site for firefighters to train.

After discussing logistics, the crew begins to position the truck. Captain Cory Crahan (“cray-han”) explains what the firefighters will be doing.   “There’s a lot of things to think about with the placement of the truck as far as being able to catch multiple sides with the bucket, thinking about rescue versus firefighting, and just basically the guys practicing their skills with operating the ladder. The fine motor skills to fine tune it to get it to a window efficiently is actually a pretty difficult thing to do.”

Pat Bradley asks  “What’s he doing there? Is that like a brake or a brace?”
Crahan:   “That’s an outrigger. This comes out straight and then it drops down and the back end of the truck lifts right off the ground.  So if you want to come back I’ll show you. It shows you it’s level and then you just we pin the outriggers and it’s all set.”

Once set, the firefighters start working with the aerial controls.  “When we bring the ladder up to a window, if we’re doing it for a rescue we don’t ever bring it up to the window.  We always bring it higher and then bring it down. Because people will jump when they think they can jump into the bucket. So if we’re bringing the ladder up to them when they think they can jump they’re going to go. But if it’s coming down from the top they can’t jump into it.  So we get it down to them and then they step in it.  But if there was a major fire in that window right there we would bring it right up to the window, however we could get it there the best, and then we would flow the water.”

Firefighters guide the bucket to the pavement and Captain Crahan offers a ride to a nervous newspaper photographer and me up the 102-foot ladder.  He shouts directions to a firefighter at the lower controls.  “Take us right up to a 70 degree angle and then put us out at a hundred feet.”  He then offers a quick caution.  “This gets a little bouncy sometimes when we get up to a hundred feet but don’t worry it’s  everything’s fine.”
Pat Bradley:  “You kind of have to get sea legs here.”
Captain Crahan:  “Yeah you do.”
Pat Bradley:  “When you’re using the hose, where is it?”
Captain Crahan:  “Well if you look off the front here there’s a deck gun. That puts out 2000 gallons a minute. It’s all controlled by these three buttons.”
Pat Bradley:  “Oh okay. Straight, right, left. Fog?”
Captain Crahan: “Yup, so it opens up into a fog pattern or a straight stream.  Brandon why don’t you go ahead and ladder a window for us?  So this is the sixth floor right here. So as you can see if we were going to rescue somebody this is actually a pretty good location to do this.  Brandon bring us right into the fifth floor window. See how we’re coming down. They can’t jump into it.  We could swing it in a little bit closer and then we could take the person and get them into the bucket.”
Pat Bradley:  “You’re only a few inches…”
Captain Crahan:  “We’re only a few inches away from the window.  Want to try out the controls?”
Pat Bradley:  “So what do you do?”
Captain Crahan: “So this is raise and lower.”
Pat Bradley:   “Okay.”
Captain Crahan: “Left and right.  Extend and retract. Extend sends the ladder out. Retract brings it back in.”
Pat Bradley:  “So you need a gentle hand on that if you don’t want to be bumping around!”
Captain Crahan:  “Yeah.”
Pat Bradley:  “Well, she’s afraid of heights so to retract we…”
Captain Crahan:  “Yup you pull the lock up.”
Pat Bradley:  “Okay and then towards me.”
Captain Crahan: “…towards you. Yup. Bring it right around to the right and we’ll go right back down to the parking lot where we were.”
Pat Bradley:  “How’s that?”
Captain Crahan: “Okay right there.”
Pat Bradley:  “Okay.”
Captain Crahan:  “And then lower. That one there.”
Pat Bradley:  “Ah.”
Captain Crahan: “Lift it up and push it forward. Nice and easy, and that’s that.”

Among the considerations firefighters must take into account when placing a ladder truck are whether it is being used for rescue or water delivery, the potential for building collapse and subsequent collapse zone, and overhead obstructions such as power lines.