A tower ladder apparatus differs from a conventional ladder truck in that it is equipped with a basket or bucket at the tip of the ladder. The basket first used by tree trimmers in the late 1950s, was adapted to fire fighting in Chicago in 1958. In the early 1970s the basket was added to other styles of aerial devices. In the late 1970s, the basket was added to the end of the aerial ladder.
The design of this type of device gives an added margin of safety for firefighters working at heights or from the end of the aerial device. The basket enables the firefighters to work from a level surface with a bar enclosure surrounding them.
In addition to the basket, pre-piped water way runs up the underside of the ladder to supply water to the master stream device. Tower Ladder 16 is also equipped with a 1500 gallon per minute fire pump and a 200-gallon on board water tank. This enables the Tower to respond in place of an engine company on a rubbish fire.
While an engine and truck company is due on all automobile fires, the Tower Ladder can actually pump water to extinguish the fire if they are the first company on the scene. The safety of the tower basket also assists in an easier removal of victims from emergency incidents.