The Original Hook & Ladder Truck
One of the artifacts on display at the San Bernardino Railroad & History Museum, San Bernardino, California is this hook and ladder “truck” that dates back to the 1900’s. If you look closely you can see the hook protruding from the red ring hanger that is attached to the rear of the truck chasis.
The Los Angeles County Fire Museum also displays an early hook and ladder and had this to say about it on their web site:
The fact that it is hand drawn, and not horse drawn, does not mean that it is older than horse drawn equipment. Small towns that did not require large firefighting equipment did not invest in the expense of having horses. So this vehicle may have served a small town or village, and they elected to stay with hand drawn equipment because they did not need the more capable, more expensive steam fire engines or horse drawn equipment…
It carried ground ladders and a roof ladder. A roof ladder is a ladder that has hooks that are spring loaded on the tip of the ladder that could turn perpendicular to the ladder so that the ladder could lay flat on the peak of the roof. The hooks would grab the ridge and hold the ladder in place so that the firefighters could work off the ladders. This is particularly helpful when there is a steep pitched roof. Especially when it is wet, it can be very hard for a firefighter to keep his footing. So, the roof ladder is used to provide better footing and safety.
It also carried axes and picks, and also the famed “hook”, giving it the name “Hook and Ladder”. The hook was used to pull down damaged buildings or chimneys to stop the spread of fire by creating a fire break. Sometimes, in early chimneys, the fire would get going in them and they could not put it out. So, they would just pull the chimneys down with the hook. The hook and a chain and a rope, and they used a long stick to get the hook up to the height to whatever they needed to grab, whatever piece of the building they needed to grab onto. They would use the chain and the rope hooked to the building, and a bunch of men would grab that to pull the wall down, or pull the chimney down.
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