Originally Posted by meierlde
Looking around the web, it appears that a final ladder on a fire escape is triggered with a release device up on the final landing (otherwise anyone could pull the ladder down and get into the building thru less guarded entrances).
Seems unlikely, but it does happen.
My parents lived in such a building in Brooklyn back in the 70s/80s, and had a neighbor two floors above them who habitually lost his keys when overindulging at the local tavern. Something like once a month, he would access the fire escape that way (I think he climbed on a trash can or something and jumped for the ladder). He always left his fire escape window unlocked so he could get into his apartment that way. This was a low crime part of the city, but still seemed pretty bizarre to me.