A couple of days ago, Neil Billings, who has maintained fire appliances for the last 41 years of his working life, came to have a look at it, and declared it to be safe.
We started by looking at the operational parameters in a contemporary issue of book 2 of ‘The Manual of Firemanship’, where it describes the safe working elevation/extension range of the ladder, and noted that if you had the ladder at 90 degrees to the vehicle, and lowered to the minimum elevation, then you cannot extend the ladder beyond 57′ out of the maximum 61′. And that is safe even with two men at the top.
We then looked at the appliance. Neil checked the steel cables in the ladders, and especially the anchor points, the pawls that lock the ladder onto the next available round (rung of the ladder), and found them to be in near-perfect condition. They should work fine provided they are well lubricated. And they are ‘fail-safe’ in the strict sense of the word – if they fail to operate, the ladder will be stuck in the extended position (safe), rather than collapsing.
Neil also checked the stabilising jacks. Being a manual screw thread with a large handwheel, and all being in good condition, there is nothing to go wrong. He checked the training mechanism, and saw how simple and effective the lock was. Likewise the axle locks (which help ensure that the unsprung weight of the back axle contributes fully to the ballast weight), and the plumbing mechanism (which ensures that the ladder is vertical side-to-side, rather than leaning to the left or the right) were all in good order. And being screw-thread operated, rather than geared or hydraulic, they don’t need any lock as screw-threads and worm-drives are non-reversible (meaning that the load cannot operate them).
His concluding remark was that he would have no hesitation in going to the top of it himself. “It’s all so simple, there’s nothing to go wrong”.