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March 20, 2006

Another blast from the past ...

Going through my photo album the other day, I discovered this picture of a training crew from the 1970's drilling with a Merryweather Comet wheeled escape ladder at the station I spent a large part of my career at. These ladders were carried on the back of an applaince usually referred to as a "Pump/Escape" and weighed almost half a ton. They were incredible useful, being fifty feet in height fully extended, and very manoeuvrable.

A drill crew prepare to extend the 50 foot wheeled escape.

It took a four man crew to slip it from the carrying gear on the appliance and to "run" it to the position required. Once in position, the wheels could be "scotched" and the ladder extended, then the pitch altered to drop the "head" into the opening you wanted on the building. The head of the ladder was also steel "shod" and this could be used to "run" the extended ladder into the window, smashing out the frame and glass so that you could affect a rescue.

One of the drills practiced with it - and one of the reasons almost everyone's building regulations require internal risers in a building above 60 feet in overall height, was the "extension" of this ladder by securing a "first floor" ladder to it's head by lashings! Quite an art, but very effective. This gave the fire service an overall "reach" for fire fighting from a ladder of - you guessed it - 60 feet! Not many people, least of all our wonderful civil servants who write the Building Codes, realise that we no longer use these ladders and the 60 feet benchmark is no longer valid as a result - it should be much lower!

Ah, the fun we had with these ladders! Many are the stories of them being chased by a crew who had let it "run away" while drilling on a slope - or, even better, had lost one off an appliance en route to a "shout".

Those were the days!

Posted by The Gray Monk at March 20, 2006 07:47 AM

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