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Preserving History & Tradition

5218 South Western Avenue - Chicago, Illinois

Currently the Museum is only open on the 4th Saturday of each month, excluding December. Click here to see a calendar of upcoming open houses.

Currently the Museum is only open on the 4th Saturday of each month, excluding December. Click here to see a calendar of upcoming open houses.

Pompier (scaling) Ladder

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Firefighter Chris Hoell of the St. Louis fire department came up with an idea for reaching upper stories; he designed what he called a scaling ladder, one that could be used to climb up the outside of a building. Hoell's ladder consisted simply of a center rod about eight feet long on which crossbars were positioned at intervals of about nine inches. At the top, at right angles with the crossbars, was a hook of a size that it would fit over a windowsill.


To use the scaling ladder, a firefighter would raise it to the window of the story above him, hook it over the sill (break through the window, if necessary), and climb up. Once he reached that window he would repeat the process, and in this manner scale as many stories as necessary, going higher than any ladder - conventional or aerial - could reach. The firefighter, once having attained the necessary height, could then assist the victim down the ladder to the floor below the fire, or, by reversing the climbing process, all the down to the street level.


Fireman Howell's invention made it possible to rescue countless people who otherwise would have been beyond the firefighter's grasp.