Make the window a door…

Most firefighters really enjoy breaking things (productively, of course), so this has always been a phenomenon I can’t understand:


Of course the issue I’m talking about is ladders/windows/ventilation/egress.  This has always been one of my biggest pet peeves, but more than that its a safety issue (egress) and an operational issue (reduced ventilation…  Read on for more discussion & videos…

We place ladders for OUR access & egress – clear the sash.

We don’t place ladders for civilians to climb in and out.  We place ladders because we anticipate the need for firefighters to go in our out of that window.  Even the skinniest firefighter will have difficulty going in our out a window that still has the crossbar (sash) across the center of the window.  CLEAR THE GLASS, THEN CLEAR THE SASH.  A few well placed blows inward & downward in the center of the sash with a sturdy tool will work nicely.

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At a window, there is only one place the tip of a ladder belongs.

Forget windward, leeward, upper corner of the window, etc…  The tip of the ladder belongs AT the window sill.  Be careful – ladder left inside the window can create difficulty for a firefighter trying to exit.  


One man ladder throws & ventilation

Thrown properly, the ladder itself can be used for ventilation and save time.  Every firefighter should be capable of and skilled in placing a 24′ extension ladder by themselves.  Venting the window with the tip of the ladder before ascending has its advantages – you aren’t face to face with whatever comes out.

After the ladder is up against the building, bring the butt out about 2-3′.  With the ladder extended so the tip is just below the top of the window, bring the tip out from the building and drop it back through the glass.  As you do this, be sure to look down and take your hands off the rails to avoid falling glass.  When I do this, I prefer to keep one foot in the center of the bottom run, with the rung against my shin to hold the ladder.

I think these two photos sum it up best.  This first is a flyer found on the bulletin board at the Burtonsville VFD in Montgomery County, MD.  The second is a creative shot that someone took… Sure it’s a shot at one of the trucks in my city, but the creator is dead right.

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 Stay safe…



10 Responses

  1. AMEN!

  2. Keep in mind New windows being so tuff to break at times make 2 attempts with the ladder. If nothing happens position ladder to vent with a tool then repostion the ladder to the sill.

  3. Nick,

    Whats your thoughts on taking the window with the beam, that way you have a little more muscle with the ladder.

  4. Lt Jeckell – thanks for the reply, good to hear from you!

    Paul –

    Absolutely, the beam will certainly provide a little more force. As long as you can balance it on the beam and control it, which shouldn’t be an issue. I have a good video showing the beam being used, I’ll see if I can get it on here.


  5. Nick,

    Nice post and couldn’t agree more! The 24 ft extention ladder is one of the most versitle tools on the fireground. In reference to Paul’s post, The beam has packed more of a punch for me. It also has more of a driving force on the sash. If your using a roof ladder the hooks can be deployed and used to pull the sash! It worked quite well a few hours ago!!!

  6. I like the beams as well. It has a much better penetrating force because it is not as likely to spread the force. It works in a much more compact section and your load is more targeted. New windows are much harder to break than older ones. You have triple pain windows now that can be hit with a sledge and not break on the first strike!
    I sometimes carry a long hook to break the glass before I throw the ladder. This way the glass is already damaged and the ladder clears it much easier. Then I place the ladder and clear out EVERYTHING with a tool. This includes blinds, curtains, etc. because that is just one more thing to get hung up on while trying to exit in a hurry or pass a victim out of a window. By spending the time at the window it also gives you a chance to look inside and see if there is a victim at the bottom of the window who had attempted to get out.

    The only windows that should not have a ladder thrown to them are the BASEMENT windows! That being said use common sense and don’t block progress on the fire ground with them either.

  7. Nick, excellent post and I would agree that throwing ladders and clearing windows is one of my pet peeves as well on the fire ground. Would like to see the video of taking the window with the beam if you can get it up. Once again great information.

  8. is that hook attached to the ladder? i noticed the firefighter grab it after he climbs it. if so how is it attached

  9. Dave –

    yes, the hook is secured at the top of the ladder. The hook is secured to the inside beam of the fly section. The head rest is a little nook at the top of the beam and the handle runs down across the rungs. The bottom of the hook’s handle is then secured to the rung with some velcro.

  10. Have a planned sequence of the windows you are venting with your ladder. Plan on leaving it at the last window where there may be the most urgent need to exit from (room of origon or where the brothers may be in most danger).

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