Living Hell - Volume #1, Issue #4



  o A.I.
  o Hair Apparent
  o Raise the Door or Lower the Floor


Those are *robots* at the end, not aliens.

Makes all the difference in the world.

Hair Apparent

Summary of styles worn (and sometimes self-barbered!) by Yours
Truly.  Don't be frightened.  Just take a deep breath and click...

hair-today.jpg (74168 bytes)

Any resemblance between the author and a cue ball is purely coin-

Raise the Door or Lower the Floor

Basically, there are two types of fire trucks:  "pumpers" and "lad-
ders."  Or "pumping engines" and "ladder trucks."  Or, as they're
also called, "engine companies" and "truck companies."  One carries
hose and a pump, the other the ladders.  In days of old, when fire-
fighters were bold (and still are), this equipment was carried on
*three* pieces of apparatus:  the steam-powered pump pulled by one
team of horses, the hose wagon by another, and the "hook and ladder"
by a third.  ("Hook" because ye olde structural firefighting often
involved the pulling down of burning straw from thatch roofs.)

Today, as has been the case for several decades, your typical ladder
truck not only carries "ground ladders" but is also equipped with an
"aerial device."  Such a extending ladder, perhaps with a nozzle at
the tip.  Or a platform.  Or a platform *and* a nozzle.  In fact,
many contemporary ladder trucks also carry hose and can pump water.
These apparatus are called "quints" as they're outfitted five ways,

  o pump
  o hose
  o water
  o ladders
  o aerial device

Thus the classification "engine company" and "truck company" is more
accurately a description of the unit's *function*.  Or, rather, the
firefighter's assigned to same.  Engine companies primarily perform
fire suppression; truck companies tackle ventilation, forcible en-
try, and nasty business of "salvage and overhaul."  (And, yeah you
nitpickers, there's also a "rescue company" which, well, does just

Because of the length of ground ladders, as well as the raw girth of
the aerial device-- plus the hydraulic "stablizers" (or "jacks") re-
quired for operation-- "aerials" are almost always the largest-sized
units at a station.  (The exception being airport "crash trucks" and
extra-large water tankers.)  And, as many a department has had the
misfortune to discover, sometimes the trucks are *too* large.

In Raleigh, for example, Station #16 on Lead Mine Road has an "ex-
tension" at the rear of the apparatus bay.  It was added fifteen-
plus years ago, when the extra-long Truck #5 was transferred from
its Cameron Village location.  (Same was a tractor-drawn "tiller,"
meaning the truck had a second steering wheel in the rear, to help
with tighter turns.)  The Mack-pulled American LaFrance has since
since been retired.  In fact, 'twas sold to a department Down East,
'round Morehead City or Atlantic Beach, but didn't fit into *their*

(The truck was subsequently purchased-- and nicely refurbished-- by
the town of Wendell, about a dozen miles east of Raleigh.  See photo
at http://www.legeros.com/ralwake/raleigh/appgal.shtml)  And why, you
ask, does a such seemingly small town require a ladder truck?  Tall
buildings and deep shopping centers aside, the simple presence of an
aerial apparatus can improve the "insurance rating" of a department,
thus resulting in lower rates for the protected community.)

The Raleigh Fire Department has had other "aerial adventures."  In
1990, before Station #11 in Brentwood could take delivery of their
brand-new Spartan/LTI, 110-foot "rear mount," the roof of the appar-
atus area had to be raised.  And, more recently, Raleigh's "Snorkel"
was transferred to "Fifteen" from its long-standing Downtown loca-
tion.  Because of the steep angle of the concrete "apron," however,
Truck #15 can't use the "front door."  So... they go out the back,
exiting through the *rear* bay doors, through the station parking
lot, and finally reaching Spring Forest Road via access road to the
adjancent Millbrook Exchange Park.  (Complete with an assist from
the Street Department, which trimmed the concrete curb nearest the
rear of the station...)

Curious to hear anecdotes about *other* caught-unspecting depart-
ments, some months back I invited members of a firefighting mailing
list to tell *their* tales.  Here are some of the stories.  Enjoy!

  o "When our 1982 FMC Roughneck was delivered, it promptly
     caught fire.  While we were all standing around, admir-
     ing the beautiful vehicle and reading the dedication
     plaque, smoke started pouring from under the dash.  Thank
     God for fire extinguishers.  The whole wiring system had
     to be replaced..."

  o "Deerfield Beach, FL, recently ordered three new rescue
     units.  When only two arrived, we wondered what happened.
     Turns out the third truck had been impounded after slip-
     ping into gear and running over the inspector.  Now we
     all joke about the 'Killer Truck.'"

  o "High Point, NC, ordered five 75' quints.  Three of them,
     however, couldn't fit in the stations because of height
     problems.  We looked at one that was stored in the base-
     ment of their headquarters station.  I hear they were
     sold without having ever been used."

  o "Around 1975, Stony Point, NY was anticipating the deliv-
     ery of their first aerial apparatus, a 75' snorkel.  Hav-
     ing measured the building and checked the specs for the
     truck, they dug up, removed, and replaced the apparatus
     floor.  Needless to say, when the truck was delivered, it
     still didn't fit.  So they had to dig up the floor again."

  o "My hometown in eastern Massachusetts, name withheld to
     protect the not-so-innocent, ordered a ladder truck a-
     bout 12 years ago.  According to the drawings, it would
     fit inside the station, until it struck the top of the
     doorway on its very first call.  The apparatus sat back
     behind Station #2 until the main station underwent a re-
     hab four or five years later."

  o "I recall when our new 105' E-One aerial tower arrived in
     Adelphia, NJ.  All of the measurements had been done and
     our 1965 station was found sufficiently tall to accept
     the new unit.  On the day of its arrival, we drilled out-
     side with the technician from the factory.  The unit was
     not backed in until later in the evening and made it by
     about two inches.  We are still debating whether to raise
     the door or lower the floor."

  o "Most electric doors have a little rope that hangs from the
     ceiling, that's used to disconnect the door from the motor-
     ized track if the power fails.  Several years ago at Forbes
     Air Force Base, KS, the rope caught on the top of a tanker.
     The light bar was destroyed but not the door.  The driver
     stopped in time.  Something similar happened in Leon Springs,
     TX, when our big pumper/tanker caught the rope.  The lower
     panel of that door had to be replaced.  Thank goodness the
     Chief was driving and not me!"

   o "A number of years ago, we purchased a brush engine built on
      a GMC chassis with an American-Coleman all-wheel drive con-
      version.  (We get about 400" of snowfall annually.)  When
      the truck was delivered, however, it was too high for the
      fire station.  The light bar was at least six inches higher
      than the top of the bay doors.  So, we relocated the light
      bar to the front bumper where it was actually *more* effec-
      tive.  (Because it's the same height as the rear window of
      a car or light truck.)  And even though we later built a
      new station with *much* taller bay doors, the light bar re-
      mained on the bumper.  As far as I know. it's still there
      today, though the truck was sold to another department last

   o "How about an oldie?  In 1927, my department was waiting for
      delivery of their Hahn.  Arriving several days late, it was
      learned that the driver went to Patterson, *New Jersey* try-
      ing to deliver a fire truck for Patterson, New York."

Copyright 2001 by Michael J. Legeros




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