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Fire departments and street standards

BKM

Cyburbian
Messages
6,464
Points
29
I know there is at least one person on here (Mike) with some firefighting experience, so I am curious about you all's reaction to this.

Fairfield, like all California cities, is basically designed by engineers. Our local residential streets are at least 36' wide of pavement. In a hot, sunny climate, this helps create a lovely residential environment, and I am happy I live on a pre-planning and pre-engineering street :)

With higher land and housing costs, we have seen movement to very small lot single-family neighborhoods with private parking courts, narrower streets, etc. Basically, townhouse neighborhoods that the residents can PRETEND that they are living in superior single family residences. I guess when you are paying $295,000 for a unit, this pretense is necessary for your psychological health, but anyway. . .

We are having a debate with our Fire Department. Apparantly, they are now responding with a ladder truck to all single family fires. I don't have a model number, but it is described, in a reverent tone of voice, as The Grumman. The Fire Department is now objecting to the new smaller lot development, because this huge Grumman cannot easily be steered into the maze of new parking courts and smaller streets.

What is your experience with street designs for the newer, larger fire truck models? Is the standard response for a residential fire now larger trucks?
 

Jeff

Cyburbian
Messages
4,161
Points
27
Your typical ladder truck is a pain to drive in high density residential areas but it isn't THAT bad.

Typical response for a dwelling fire is 2&2... 2 engines 2 ladders, and a chief. If they "just started" adding a ladder to dwellings I'd be scared to live in your municipality because quite frankly, someone there doesn't have a clue.

The fire truck debate is always used when debating street sizes and turn-arounds, etc. One thing that is always overlooked is a fire truck is no wider than your typical vehicle give or take a little. DOT requires no vehicle to be wider than 8' anything more requires "Wide Load" permits.

Keep in mind also, that the guys driving these trucks are good. You will probably never come across better drivers except in NASCAR. If there is "smoke showing" from a house, the truck is getting there. Either by taking the street, sidewalk, front lawn, whatever.

Typically what we use in Philly is a tiller (the kind that turn in the middle but require 2 drivers, one in front one in back).
These are alot more efficient in the city (12' wide streets w/ parking on 1 side), but we'll also get a regular straight stick down there. Maybe the township should look into getting the FD a new truck? Problem with the tiller is that it requires 2 drivers, which can be a problem in the volunteer fire service.

Trust me when I say, there is nothing that you can build that a fireman can not drive too, break into, bust up, etc.

Hope this helps, contact me if you need more.
 
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BKM

Cyburbian
Messages
6,464
Points
29
Thanks for the perspective.

Ladder truck responses are apparantly standard procedure in most California cities. Keep in mind that many of our houses are single story structures and separated by at least ten-to-fifteen feet, in most neighborhoods. Maybe that's why they had a different policy for a long while.

I am always amazed when I see an eastern city. Listening to our engineers, police, and fire department, anything less than fifty feet of pavement is unsafe. :)
 

Jeff

Cyburbian
Messages
4,161
Points
27
The guys on the ladder do more than just throw ladders, that's why I question their response.

A ladder truck is basically a million dollar tool box. The guys on this truck are responsible for: Forcible entry, search and rescue, ventilation, salvage and overhaul. Any type of dwelling fire without these operations could prove deadly.

Even with a one-story house, you still have to vent the fire, which requires going to the roof and cutting a hole in it over the fire. The guys on the engine company are going to be busy humping hose into the fire building, and without horizontal ventilation they are fighting a losing battle.

But this is a planning discussion board isn't it?
 

Cardinal

Cyburbian
Messages
10,080
Points
34
Our city was until recently also requiring excessively wide streets. The most ridiculous is a residential collector with about 3500 cars per day, built 44- curb-to-curb. We wonder why people are always speeding.

Fortunately, we re-wrote teh subdivision ordinance about three years ago, allowing streets as narrow as 28', with parking on one side. Some of our wider streets are getting bike lanes. Nobody has complained, not even the biggest whiners (fire fighters).

From my perspective, I think it is the radii that are important, not the lane widths. Even fire fighters can drive in a straight line. They just need a little extra room to make the turns.
 

Chet

Cyburbian Emeritus
Messages
10,624
Points
34
Our standard is now 22 feet of asphalt + curb & gutter. No complaints. Our volunteer fire departments always save the basement.
 

donk

Cyburbian
Messages
6,970
Points
30
We rely on the National Building Code for questionable/ discretionary decisions. The Code requires a minimum travelled portion of a suitable, all season surface of at least 6 metres (about 20 feet) with a vertical clearance of 8 metres (26 feet) for all dwellings. The standard in the City is at least 20 metres and goes wider depending on the expected use.
 

peter lowitt

Member
Messages
42
Points
3
Have them walk the walk

I heard a presentation by the City of Portland Maine Planning Department as to how they dealt with street widths and fire department issues. They invited the Fire Department to participate in a test. They found a 22' wide and 18' wide street, parked a car on one side of it and asked the Fire Department to manuvere their trucks up and down the street. As BTURK said, if there is smoke, those boys and girls will get there and get the job done. This put an end to the street width issue in Portland and resulted in allowing 18' wide streets in some neighborhoods.
 

Chet

Cyburbian Emeritus
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10,624
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34
Another good exercise and one I did at a former job : Get the fire crews and their rigs out to a nice big open parking lot (preferably one without all that landcscaping island crap to get in your way!) and have them do their tightest turning maneuvers - slowly - and follow them with a can of marking paint. Then draw up the findings for everyone. They'll come to terms pretty quick when faced with these facts.
 

nerudite

Cyburbian
Messages
6,544
Points
30
We just went through this excercise (looking at street widths) with our engineers and fire department... I was surprised that they were not so much concerned about the width of the street, but they didn't want the alleys/laneways in the back because of the jammed parking that is created without driveways in the front of the house.

Although the fire department *can* fight the fire, it may slow down the response time the more on-street parking, narrower paving, etc. So if you have a capital facilities plan that triggers new fire stations based on response times, you may want to factor the smaller streets/more on-street parking/higher densities into that model...
 

Jeff

Cyburbian
Messages
4,161
Points
27
Don't park in front of hydrants either....

I got another one which shows why you shouldn't park in the fire lane...I have to find it.
 

OhioPlanner

Cyburbian
Messages
304
Points
11
We had this fight out when I worked for Amarillo, Texas.

I undertook an extensive analysis of on-street parking patterns in residential neighborhoods.

The previous street width was 36' just like yours.

What we discovered was that the largest fire truck could park inbetween two full size suburbans each parked 18" from the curb and still have room to set the stabilizers for the fire truck out on a street of 29' in width.

I talked to our purchasing dept to get all of the specs for fire trucks, contacted the fire truck manufacturers to get additional info on the extension of the side mirrors etc.

We did a study to determine the extent of on-street parking, the frequency of large vehicles parked on street, # of times two vehicles were parked across from each other etc.

We had a rock solid case that could not be questioned by the fire dept on safety reasons.

The result was a reduced street width. I believe the city voted to require 31 or 33'

The Fire Dept had been arguing about how big their trucks were. Noone wanted to get in a fight so we just went around the dept to get the actual facts.
 

Jeff

Cyburbian
Messages
4,161
Points
27
A "conservative" estimate for the width of a ladder with the outriggers fully extended would be twice the width of the truck, or no more than 16'

I can't find the other picture I had, which shows how outriggers sit nicely on parked cars (in cities like Philly, NYC, etc we have 12' wide streets with parking on both sides, the outriggers gotta go somewhere). Like I said before, build what you want, zone what you want, etc. There isn't much stopping the FD.
 

Cardinal

Cyburbian
Messages
10,080
Points
34
Mike DeVuono said:
Like I said before, build what you want, zone what you want, etc. There isn't much stopping the FD.
I don't know, Mike, should I be more afraid of John Ashcroft or you guys? ;)
 

Lee Nellis

Cyburbian
Messages
1,371
Points
29
The last time I was involved in this, the fire trucks were a breeze (as has been said, they are good drivers). What got to us was the garbage packers. No turning them in a 50 foot radius cul-de-sac! It may be worth noting that AASHTO has issued a new version of the "green bible" for low-volume streets that blesses 18' wide streets in some cases and 22' in others. The only problem is that AASHTO's definition of low volume is very very low.
 
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