The San Francisco Ladder Shop July 17 2013, 11 Comments
As time passes, it seems to me that there are less and less of those things that signify what is great about the fire service. Technology, increased safety, innovation, and time chip away at some of our most beloved symbols. Some changes are for the best and some are not. It's hard to argue the effectiveness of a well placed and expertly thrown aluminum ladder. It's also an easy pill to swallow when they break and can be replaced quickly and cheaply.
But they're not the best for everyone. San Francisco Fire Department has stuck with the wooden ladder for many reasons. First and foremost, there isn't a city in the world that has more high voltage lines running overhead. The city is made up of very steep and very narrow streets that make ladder truck access very difficult. And finally, the wind that whips off the bay is nothing to laugh at. With all that said, San Francisco Fire Department relies heavily on their ground ladders. They need to be heavy and stable. They need to be non-conductive.
They need to be made of wood. And while they are not the only department to use wooden ladders, they are the only department the builds their own ladders.
Since 1917 the San Francisco Ladder Shop has been building, designing and maintaining all the ladders for SFFD. They are the only ladder shop of its kind left in existence--a true testament to how strongly San Francisco feels about its ground ladders. At about $100 a linear foot, the ladders are not cheap, but when they break, these carpenters and craftsmen just repair the broken pieces and put the ladder back in service. SFFD has ladders in service that are over fifty years old and work just as good as the first day they were put into service.
We chose The San Francisco Ladder Shop as our latest Signature Design because of everything they signify--craftsmanship, quality and tradition. SFFD. is rich in tradition and everyone knows them by their helmet markings and their wooden ladders. In my estimation, they protect some of the most difficult urban geography and the most challenging building construction in the country. They don't continue to use wooden ladders out of stubbornness. They use them because they are the right tool for the right place.
When we called up Tom Lane and asked him if he would be interested in designing a shirt that would honor the craftsmen of the shop, he jumped all over it. He knew that he would have to create something that was organic, natural and created by hand. When we saw the finished design we were so happy that we wanted to do something special with it. So we called a small local print shop that deals in fine art and had them make a limited run of 150 prints.
This has been a great project to work on. My favorite yet. We hope you guys like this design as much as we do.