Pratt Firefighters test ladder extension unit for safety on steep angles

Pratt firefighters are considering a new piece of ladder equipment that will make it safer to work on roofs with relatively steep angles.

The Roof Operations Safety Platform attaches to a standard fire ladder and allows firefighters to have a wider platform to stand on when doing procedures on a roof, said Pratt Fire Chief David Kramer.

Firefighters got to test the platform during their regular Wednesday training session. The platform hooks onto the ladder and is designed to extend to the left or right side of the ladder or it can be placed in the middle and have a shorter extension on both sides.

When firefighters attack a fire on the roof, they use specialized tools including an ax, halagan bar, chain saw or rescue saw. When working on a roof with a steep angle, a ladder provides the means to reach the area where firefighters need to work. The width of a ladder is the only area for standing with these pieces of equipment.

"A high pitched roof can be touchy and it can be dangerous," Kramer said.

The platform gives the firefighter a wider platform to work on and makes it safer to attack the fire.

"A bigger work space is always better," Kramer said.

The platform is easy to attach to the ladder and can quickly be quickly attached. Firefighters took turns standing on the platform and found it provided a very stable working area.

For now, the fire department is just considering the platform. They borrowed it from a supplier, Weis Fire, to see how it works and would it be a benefit to the department to add it to their safety equipment. Kramer said the department could without it but it would make it safer to worked on pitched roofs. With Pratt's limited fire personnel, it would be nice to have it available. The department is looking into the cost and is considering purchasing a unit.

While the fire department considers the ladder platform, they are actively replacing anther piece of safety equipment. The bottles on the air packs have a terminal date and time is running out for the 22 department air packs.

About every five years, the backpacks go through a standard review that determines any changes that need to be made. Hopefully, there won't be a lot of modifications and most of the time, there is not much of a change but the changes can be very expensive, Kramer said.

The air pack consists of the tank, the face mask, the regulator and the back pack that holds the tanks. The backpacks are expensive running from $7,000 to $8,000 apiece. There is a grant available to help cover replacement costs but it is a very competitive grant and its very difficult to get, Kramer said.

For now, the department is replacing as many packs as they can with available funds. It's hard for a small department like Pratt to keep up with backpack replacement. It's a constant struggle but they do the best they can, Kramer said.