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Thu, March 21

Fire department's ladders can be limiting<BR>

If a fire breaks out in a building taller than three stories, Kingman and Hualapai Valley fire department personnel may have trouble reaching the upper levels.

Fortunately, outside of a commercial building near the airport industrial complex, there are no buildings in the Kingman area that tall ...


Each department has a 50-foot aerial ladder attached to a fire truck in its arsenal to access multi-story buildings.

With the aerial ladder, firefighters can only reach the window of a three-story building safely and the roof if needed, Hualapai Valley Fire Department Assistant Chief Steve Overbey said.

For safety reasons, an optimum angle for the aerial ladder next to a building is about 70 degrees.

Obstacles such as parked cars or trees can keep a fire engine away from a building, he said.

The maximum height for buildings in commercially or industrially zoned areas of Kingman is 50 feet, generally a four- or five-story building.

Kingman Regional Medical Center is the tallest building in Kingman at three stories - less than 50 feet high - city planner Rich Ruggles said.

In the county, the maximum height for industrial buildings in an area zoned airport development is 60 feet.

Buildings as high as 120 feet can be built in manufacturing-zoned land in industrial areas, especially along Interstate 40, county planner Kevin Davidson said.

Only one building at the airport's industrial park is tall enough, at 65 feet, to be a problem if a fire did break out.

That building, however, has its own metal ladders attached to the side of the building for firefighters to gain access to he roof, HVFD Deputy Chief Jim Dykens said.

Most of the industrial buildings at the airport complex do not have multiple floors usually found in an office building, so the only problem would be reaching the roof.

In most cases, firefighters would not want to get on the roof anyway if the building is fully engulfed in flames, Dykens said.

Joe Dorner, KFD assistant fire chief, said his department has other tactics used to reach areas that cannot be reached by the aerial ladder.

Firefighters can reach one of several stairwells in a building.

Some buildings have a sprinkler system attached to the plumbing that can allow firefighters to tap into the water main on a particular floor rather than from the fire engine.

That shortens the hose needed to get to a fire at a higher level, he said.

"The problem, even with a two-story building, is where to put the ladder," Dorner said.

"In most cases you won't be able to park the engine right next to a building."

A ground ladder, not attached to the fire engine, can also be erected right next to a building, allowing access to higher elevations than the aerial ladder, he said.

Dorner said KFD is looking into acquiring a platform ladder more than a 100 feet long.

A platform ladder has a secured cage at the end of the ladder for a firefighter to stand in.

The department's 50-foot aerial ladder only has a water nozzle attached to the end of the ladder.

An 85-foot aerial ladder plus the fire engine can cost as much as $750,000, Overbey said.


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