Aerial LED’s

Throwback Thursday post: Original posting date December 09th, 2010.

The crew from DCFD 13 Truck #4 sent in these photos of an upgrade they made to the tip of their aerial. They removed the bulky spot lights often found on an aerial’s tip and replaced them with LED light strips. The main purpose of the modification was to reduce the profile of the tip, while maintaining adequate illumination for operations. The LED’s operate off the rig’s batteries, so the generator does not need to be in operation for them to be used. As you can see from the photos, the LED’s still illuminate the area of operation, and are still quite an eye catcher while operating on the roof. Another benefit is that the LED’s do not tend to have the blinding effect like traditional spot or flood lights.

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Padlock Twist

Throwback Thursday post: Original posting date August 20th, 2014.

Our friend Andrew Brassard submitted this video showing the Padlock Twist. A padlocked chain is an extremely common forcible entry situation we may come across. One popular method of defeating this set-up is to try and drive the padlock off the chain by inserting the pike of the halligan into the shackle of the lock, and striking with another tool. However this method is not always the most efficient because the chain tends to act as a shock absorber and absorbs most of the force you are generating into the lock. Another and perhaps more common method is to simply use a saw or bolt cutters to cut the lock… but what if you don’t have a saw on your rig? Or you find yourself operating a long distance from the rig and don’t want to waste time going back to grab a tool?

As you can see in the video, you begin by simply twisting the chain to remove the slack. Once the slack is taken out, you place the forks of the halligan on the shackle of the padlock and keep twisting until the lock fails. The method in the video works really well for both low and medium security padlocks, which are typically the most common we come across due to their low price. The most beneficial part of this method is that it is a single person technique. One common use may be when the outside vent firefighter encounters a chain and padlock when accessing the rear yard at a private dwelling and may only have a hook and halligan to work with.

Knowing how to utilize your tools in a variety of different ways is an essential fireground skill. Simply knowing how to apply the maximum amount of mechanical advantage in different situations will make us more efficient and effective on the fireground.

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Heavy Irons

Throwback Thursday post: Original posting date January 21st, 2008.

Sometimes the axe and halligan just won’t do. The time may come that you need a bigger hammer. One of the issues with carrying a sledge with a halligian is the fact that they don’t marry as well as the traditional irons. Here are two similar approaches to fixing the issue. The first one was sent in by Firefighter Angus Burns from Lexington Fire EC-3. The second one was sent in by Driver/Operator Chad Berg from Snohomish County, Washington Ladder Co. 72.

Angus points out that the Lexington creation was a group effort. Firefighter Jack Trautwein wanted the ability to carry the sledge/halligan combo, Angus found the material at a local fire apparatus shop, and Firefighter David Gumm did the machining and welding. This particular method has the added feature that allows the set of heavy irons to stand upright without falling over.

Chad took the more familiar approach. He used a more traditional loop welded onto the top of the sledge. He points out he likes to carry the heavy irons when working in concrete tilt up and re-enforced masonry structures that normally offer little flex when forcing. The heavier sledge allows for a bigger punch when setting the halligan. Since the welder was already out and warmed up, they added a little company pride to the tool.

It should go without saying, but we’ll say it anyway. Be careful to watch the temperature of the sledge head while making these modifications, you could weaken the epoxy bonding the handle and head, and we would not want to be around the first time you figure it out. Check out the Tips from the Bucket Page for additional photos on this, and many other great tips.

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Roll Down and Padlock Prop

Throwback Thursday post: Original posting date July 1st, 2011.

Jerry Smith from Baltimore City Truck Company 15 sent in these photos of a new training prop being used by Truck 15. Jerry points out that they got the idea for this prop from the members of FDNY Tower Ladder 58. They prop is intended to allow members to review different styles of roll down gates, and the different locks that secure them. The prop not only allows members to discuss how to attack these locks and but also to get their hands on the locks to see how the locking mechanisms work.

The prop has two working sides. The front side is mainly for show and tell. The members can manually work the locks to see how they operate. This side is also used to allow members to manually force locks with the duckbill lock breaker. The front side contains a total of eight different styles of locks, all of which are commonly found throughout Truck 15’s area.

In addition to the locks, the prop also contains the two most common styles of roll down gates. The first style is the newer flat surface style roll down, and the second is the older style curved slat roll down. Toward the bottom of the prop, the slats are pre-cut the slats so members can slide the slats apart to see how the roll down is held together. Obviously a better understanding of how something is constructed provides useful knowledge on how it can be defeated. There is also a hole in the slats so members can practice the extremely effective method of pulling the slats out with the halligan.

The rear side of the prop is designed to be the cutting or working side of the prop. They attached excess roll-down gate material so members can practice cutting the slats with the saw. In addition, there are three lock cutting stations: the first is for hockey puck locks, and the other two are simple padlock hasp assemblies. Finally, the prop has metal cutting station that utilizes pipe to allow practice of both horizontal and vertical cutting. This simply addition to the prop allows members to practice and prefect operating the saw at different angles.
This prop is a simple yet effective way to provide valuable training to members. The prop is easy to build and at a relativity low cost. The beauty of this prop is that it can simply sit against the wall in the apparatus bay for those impromptu company level training sessions. Just being able to pull the prop out and review techniques with members provides an worth while training session, even during days when weather would limit other training options.

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Hiding Behind the Door

Captain Dan Herberger from Batavia City (NY) Fire Department submitted a story that we should share at the firehouse table.

Captain Herberger says “While I was looking for my daughter a few weeks ago, I opened the door to her bedroom and entered, not finding her after calling her name.  After a few seconds I heard giggling and closed the door to find her between the wall and a piece of furniture.  The first thing I thought of was, would I have missed a child while performing a search?  I will certainly think of this experience when performing a search in the future.  You never know when a training opportunity will present itself.”

Searching behind every door, even if it is flush against the wall, (or this case, against furniture) is critical during a primary search. Doing so, could locate another room or a victim who collapsed prior to exiting and is now wedged between the door and wall. Our friends at note that about 12% of fire victims are found within 6ft of the door. So you might be asking yourself, If I am looking for a victim, why search behind a door that opens flush against a wall, a victim can not fit in that space? But if you think back to Captain Herberger’s story you will realize this is one real scenario! In his case there was a void space, just big enough for a child to hide behind a bedroom door.

Room orientation can also hide things behind doors. There are many hotels, college dorms and even private dwellings where entry or bedroom doors, when opened, cover closets and bathrooms. So how would we find these areas if we do not check behind doors? One method that works well for a two person search team is to assign the officer to check behind the door. As the firefighter is sent into a room to search, the officer already at the door maintaining orientation, has a great opportunity to check behind it.

Both members of the interior search team need to recognize what type of room they are conducting a search in. This will cue them into what “should” be the orientation of that room. For example, while searching a hotel room, we should be expecting a bathroom and possibly a small closet in each room. The officer should communicate to the firefighter “search the bathroom, search the closet.” Communicating this will guide the firefighter and help them have a more thoughtful search. If we came out of that hotel room and did not search a bathroom and/or a closet, we should be highly suspicious of missed rooms. Did we check what’s hiding behind the door?

Thank you Captain Herberger for this submission!



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Controlling Utilities

Throwback Thursday post: Original posting date June 12th, 2006.

Controlling utilities is an important outside truck function. Regardless if your department uses inside/outside truck teams or not,(or dare I say no truck company at all) outside functions need to happen at every fire. This first picture was from a call my truck company recently ran on. It was in another department’s first due so the arrival of the truck company was delayed. En-route we hear an engine company announce “utilities secure.” Once my truck got on scene we went to work: first job 360 the structure (which should always be done!) and verify utilities. During the 360, it was noticed that the utilities were still operational! It was pretty easy to notice, most of the lights were still on. Moral of the story: When multiple breakers/shunts/switches or what ever are present… Shut them all off!

Apparently this building owner wants his structure to burn down. Try getting these utilities when the dumpsters are full and heavy. -Jimm-

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Keys to the City-8hr. H.O.T.

We will be holding a 8hr. Forcible Entry class titled “Keys to the City” at Valencia College’s Fire Rescue Institute on March 13, 2018. To register call Valencia College at 407-582-6688.

As the forcible entry team, you have the pressure of the entire fire ground on you. The door must be opened to allow searches and hose advancement to happen. This class will give you the confidence as if you have the “keys to the city” when faced with any forcible entry challenge.
Students will start with the basics and progress towards real world forcible entry challenges. Participants will have a great understanding on the “whys” of forcible entry. This class is 100% conventional techniques and will focus on repetition to build a good forcible entry foundation. Our through-the-lock and passive entry rotation will be hands-on and detailed, insuring participants have a sound understanding of pulling and manipulating locks. Students will end the day with a live smoke forcible entry scenario, forcing several doors in tight quarters.
This class is for any firefighter or fire officer wanting to know the details in forcible entry and will give them the skill to tackle any challenge.
Skills covered:
Tool orientation
Door Construction and swing
Passive entry
Security window bars
Limited hallway space
Limited visibility
and MORE…
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Strap Storage

Maekin Healy from Santa Clara (CA) Fire Department sent in a way to store ratchet straps for easy deployment.

Here is a simple tweak to help avoid multiple twists in your Auto Extrication straps during deployment. During storage, attach the hooks to the trigger. Next, simply lay the strap out flat, fold and roll like a donut roll. Last, Secure with any type of cord or Velcro strap. To deploy, remove cord or Velcro strap and roll it out like a hose roll. No more twists!

Below is a comparison photo of a strap post deployment, which one would you prefer?

The picture below shows the least ideal way to store the straps. However, this is arguably the most common storage method.

The picture below shows the ideal way to store straps. This will prevent the strap from becoming twisted during deployment.

This is a simple adjustment you can make to provide a cleaner deployment of straps when they are needed on scene. We are also a fan of how clean it looks stored in this manner and will surely make for a more organized compartment on the rig.


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Forks and the Mortise

When learning forcible entry the discussion of where to place the forks of your Halligan will inevitably come up. Your options are above the lock, below the lock or between the locks if there’s more than one. All options have their place but there is one particular type of locking mechanism where placing the fork in between the locks won’t work. Mortise locks (as pictured below) have been around since the 1800’s.

These locks get their name from the mortise or pocket that is required to be cut into the door for installation. They’re commonly found in older buildings, commercial buildings, high end residential or any place that requires a durable lock that will hold up to thousands of operations.

Sizing up a door for a mortised lock is difficult and has made me lean towards always placing my forks either above or below the locks and never between. If you are a strong believer in placing your forks between the locks then you should know that mortise locks normally don’t have escutcheon plates that are offset from the door more than a ¼”. This is because the lock cylinders are threaded into the mortised guts of the lock and this requires the installer to be able to spin the lock into position. Bored Cylinder locks are held together with screws and can be offset from the door greater distances.

If you haven’t figured out why you can’t place your forks in between the locks from the pictures above then take a closer look at an example of a door forced by Orlando (FL) Fire Department’s Tower 11 B shift crew.

Photos by: JJ Cassetta

This door had to be forced to allow smoke to ventilate from the upper floor of a hospital. It was inward swinging and set into a metal frame with concrete walls. As you can see if the forks were placed between the locks they would end up running into the deadbolt. This would prove to be very frustrating in smoky conditions and is the reason you should stay away from placing your Halligan there. Another option is pulling the cylinder using k-tool or other lock pulling tool. The mortised lock is a durable lock but the cylinder is only held in with two small set screws.

Jeremy Rubottom is currently a Firefighter with the Orlando (FL) Fire Department, assigned to the Heavy Rescue 1. Jeremy has been in the fire service for a total of 15 years. Prior to joining OFD, he was a Firefighter for the St. Johns County (FL) Fire Department for 5 years. He is an instructor at Valencia Fire Rescue Institute, working with the Truck Company Operations and Special Operations programs. Jeremy is a Georgia Smoke Diver and has taught at the Orlando Fire Conference for several years. He is also a H.O.T. Instructor for VentEnterSearch, LLC.


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Double-Wide Addition

Joseph Dorsette, from Broward County Sheriff’s Office (FL), recently submitted his findings that were discovered during an alarm at a residence. While conducting a 360 he noticed the single-wide mobile home behind the actual alarm had been modified into a double-wide, with an extra addition.

The existing single-wide mobile home appeared modified, the car port was closed in with a lightweight wall which was constructed of half inch plywood, sprayed with knock-down and painted. Three windows were added as well as a satellite dish, this made it appear to be the original double-wide.

The second modification was an 8 x 8 metal shed possibly used as an additional bedroom or general floor space. A hole had to be created in the rear of modified car port and then the shed butted up against the home. Strips of aluminum, pieces of painted plywood, and some type of adhesive were added to make it fit against the home. Also, a hole was cut into the rear of the shed for a window shaker and a second satellite dish. It is unknown if the owner or occupants ran electric to the additions or possibly utilized extension cords for power. Also unknown is the layout of the inside, if the shed doors were left in place or removed and if an interior door was used and possibly subleased.

Another interesting observation, was the shed and the right side of the mobile home (looking at it from the pictured angle) were not connected internally but connected externally with a small piece of plywood and the aluminum panels from the ground

Joseph was not able to make contact with the occupant and all windows were boarded up from hurricane Irma. He stated that “As an officer this type of addition to an addition can hinder several aspects of our operations from interior attack to search and rescue.”

Other topic this post brings up are boarded up windows. This time of year it is common for hurricane prone areas to have a large increase in board up windows. Hurricane board ups, although typically not difficult to defeat, can present entry and egress issues if not prepared. If you work in a hurricane prone area, survey your first due during this time and build multiple plans of attack.

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