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Bridging 105

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I recall when I joined In 1980, we were still using what I was told was the “National Bridging Method”. Although no longer in any FS Manual, I’d like to teach it to some of the younger watch members, along with other long forgotten firemanship. Good to get them thinking how to adapt equipment for unusual situations.

My question is, is there anyone out there who remembers this method, or can find it anywhere (I’m sure it was in a pre-1980 Drill Book or Manual) just to confirm my memory of how it was performed. It has been nearly 40 years since we used to practice it.

This method is for when bridging higher than 3m but too shallow to use a standard ladder pitch. It’s also controllable and easy to recover, should it not reach the other side.

It involves lashing a section of Short Extension Ladder to the heel of the 105, at 90 degrees. As I recall, a 15m line Is split, and secured to the top of each string of the main section of 105, the running ends then fastened similarly to the Short Extension. This prevents the angle exceeding 90 degrees. A split 30m line is secured to the head of the 105 top extension. 

The set up resembles an Escape Ladder (clearly without wheels). The ladder is under-run, then extended. It’s lowered by using the Short Extension as a lever, and the split Long Line as guy lines.

This drill requires the split Short Line to be of equal lengths, and of equal tension, to prevent twisting. Whilst not a speedy method of bridging, it is an alternative, and in training calls for good teamwork and broadens the mind for how equipment might be adapted.

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Mick, that's a different version of bridging the 105 than I remember, though I don't go back as far as 1980.

The one I remember involved building an A frame with the short extension, putting a hydrant bar across convenient rounds, lifting the 105 on to it, extending it before launching it across the gap to be bridged. It was a real back breaker, but then most things with the 105 were, but the I think one of the reasons it went out of favour was the ladder manufacturers wouldn't stand over the ratings for the ladder when being used in this way. I might have a drill book with this drill in it.

Wouldn't be much use now though as we replaced the 105 with 9 m ladders quite a few years ago.

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Hi Keith. Thanks for your reply. Many of our Pumps still carry the 105, and the bridging method you describe is actually  still in the curent Training Manual, and one that we're very familiar with. 

Due to the height of the bar in the A frame, you can only hit an objective up to 3m higher than the heel. Whereas the old method lowered the ladder into position. The A frame method also requires 'launching' the 105 across a gap, and if it doesnt reach, you've lost it!

Hoping there's someone out there older than me, who can find a picture, or description of the old drill. 

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Drawn by my own fair hand. No, I am not Banksie

This is 95% accurate, but I have altered the way the short line is tied to make the idea easier to swallow - I hope

The drill was a pile of crap. It would take too long, didn't give much of a projection and may damage one or both of the ladders - which is why it was withdrawn.

It was a legacy of bridging the wheeled escape ladder- which was a very good drill and was used for real quite a bit- esp over parked cars


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Thanks Messy. Guessing youve been in a while, or retired? You're quite right, the drill was a pile of crap. Took too long to set up and was generally unstable once extended, and being lowered, as the tension was never the same both sides. No real operational value, but as you say, was an attempt to emulate the Wheeled Escape that had mostly gone out of service.

Having drilled now for 4o years, I'm looking to get some of the younger ones on the Watch thinking, and filling in some of the gaps of the more limited recruit training being delivered, although this particular drill doesn't have much purpose. 

Unfortunately your attachment won't open. Happy for you to send it to mickstearnuk@gmail.com if you don't mind.

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I always enjoyed lateral thinking drills - i.e.. not in the drill book and force you to problem solve. Many involved unofficial and unauthorised drills at derelict sites. Take a flask of tea, have a sweep round and tidy up, then throw a ladder around a bit - perhaps the last one through the window for fun - sorry, to gain experience ;)

Sorry to those who have read this before - but a drill I tried a couple of times involved placing a pump appliance on a salvage sheet, by using equipment from the appliance only. The vehicle could not be rolled or moved laterally . The aim was to have the pump dead centre on the sheet at the end. This meant jacking the pump up a few times using portapower or airbags, fold the sheet after making careful measurements sliding and unfolding like origami. It would be PL crew v Pump crew and marks were awarded for accuracy & speed. Marks were withdrawn for those who argued with the referee's (me) decision & for every dangerous occurrence where I had to say 'still'.

A good drill for bad weather plus an element of competition, fun and most importantly extracting the urine out of each other

Another drill was the removal of 2 identical car roofs, cutting them into pieces and posting them thru a letterbox cut into a piece of sheet timber (stolen from a neighbouring building site!). Sometimes the pieces would be carried through an obstacle course, up and over roofs, thru a sewer pipe & via ladders before posting. Again, it was massively competitive, marks for speed, the number of pieces posted (fewer attracting a higher score) and points removed again for dangerous activity

Good fun and a fantastic break from a dull slip and pitch 

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As daft as these unofficial drills are, its worth encouraging lateral and flexible thinking when it comes to the use of all kit, as not all buildings are easy or remember a 4 storey drill tower.  I remember a job in Essex or Kent, where workers were trapped on a power station roof and were rescued by crew carrying a 135 ladder up a TL and pitching it from a flat roof

Can you imagine doing that on a drill or suggesting it as an exercise? You would be locked up!!! 

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Thanks guys for your responses. Looking to expand the ‘thinking’ and old style drills this year. Not just for the sake of being old school, but to ensure that traditional firefighter skills and ability to problem solve aren’t lost. 

The new ways of learning, shorter recruit courses, and the emphasis on on-line learning, may be the way forward, but should enhance not replace tried and tested methods. I’m fortunate that our newer members are dead keen to learn all the old skills and actually feel kind of cheated that they’re not taught to them, as a matter of course, as recruits. 

This isn’t a rant about new ways, just keen to maintain a good balance. Once lost, knowledge and skills don’t return, as there’s nobody left that remembers. 

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I had my watch roll a car under control a few times.  It involved two trucks using two Tirfor winches and the Rta kit.  The car was put in the centre of the yard and they’d get on with it.  The car couldn’t move forwards or backwards and all at times the car must be in full control as it went from four wheels, onto the roof and back onto four wheels.  To do this required controlled use of both winches and careful use of blocks and wedges etc to stop the car moving too much, especially when righting it off it’s roof.  

Another one for a hot day was to ask one of the crews to salvage sheet up the ground floor of the drill tower.  When they were happy the other crew would flood it from above (we had metal grid floors) and Test their workmanship.  They then swapped over 

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