Archive for the 'Tips' Category

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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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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Stretcher Saw Strap

Lieutenant Matthew Aman from Ridge Culver (NY) Fire District sent in this photo of a homemade saw strap they have on their truck company. They simply took a stretcher strap and girth hitched it to the saw. This places the buckle at mid-chest for quick release and adjustment purposes. They added a knot in the webbing to prevent it from possibly slipping through the buckle.


It’s worth mentioning that one modification that could be made to this set-up would be to possibly attach the strap to the saw via carabineers. This would allow the strap to be quickly removed in those situations where the strap is not desired. There are a number of different methods you can use to place a strap on a saw. Some people like them, some do not. Either way, train with carrying, climbing, and using your saw and figure out what works best for you.


Two Dollar Saw Strap

Senior Captain Jeff Jacobs from Houston (TX) Tower 69 sent in some photos of another homemade saw strap option. This one utilizes a flashlight strap that has been modified with a 2″ steel ring.


The steel ring is available from most hardware stores in a 2 pack for about $2. The steel ring is threaded on the strap in between the adjustment slider and quick release buckle.


The working end of the strap can be looped around the carry handle of the saw and clipped into the steel ring.


The strap is a flashlight strap that comes with the flashlights we carry on our truck… usually find a few of these laying around in an apparatus compartment on almost any truck in any station in our city.

Re-purposing a unused flashlight strap and a $2 dollar investment makes a easy to use, easy to remove saw strap. It’s simple, cheap, and effective.


Problem with that Pitch

Engineer Caleb Eiriksson from Fort Walton Beach (FL) Truck Co. 6 sent in some photos of how he and the Truck 6 crew recently spent an afternoon out in their first due. They wanted to come up with options of how they could utilize a roof ladder on a large steep pitched roof. Obviously, being able to get the truck into position would eliminate the need for these options, but they wanted to see what other options they could find.



The first thing they tried was using a 24’ extension ladder and conjunction with a 16’ roof ladder. Which is traditionally their go-to option when dealing with most residential roofs in their area. Due to the pitch and height of the roof, this option was not able to reach the peak. This roof was too steep to walk on, and there were no valleys present to aide in the assent to the peak.


The next option they tested was using the same 24′ extension and 16′ roof combo. This time they matched the angle of the roof pitch with the 24 footer and then made a transition to the 16’ roof ladder. As you can see from the photos, this option got them closer, but still came up short of the peak. This option would certainly work on a shorted height roof with this same pitch. It’s worth mentioning that the bed section of the ladder is facing out (up) and the fly section is lying flat on the roof. Using the ladder is this fashion eliminates the ladder bouncing as you ascend the ladder.


The next option they tested ended up being the winner for this particular roof: a 35’ extension and a 16’ roof ladder. By matching the angle of the roof, they essentially made the individual ladders into one long ladder. This combination proved to be a very stable working platform. Again, as mentioned earlier, the bed section of the ladder is facing in (resting on the roof) and the fly section is facing out to minimize the ladder bounce. They found the best way to get the ladder in place was to rest the beam on the roof, extend the ladder, then rotate into the bed down position on the roof. Once the 35′ is in position, simply ascend the 35′, and place the 16′ to the peak to get the job done.


While this might not be an everyday roof tactic, it got the crews out into their first due, and they worked trough a challenge together. They worked through the challenge in a non-emergency situation, and would now be better prepared to deploy it for real if the need arose.


A special thanks to Engineer Eiriksson and the Truck 6 crew (Captain Mosley, Firefighter Corrigan, Firefighter Dowd, and Firefighter Shalduha) for thinking out of the box and taking the time to share what they found.

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Crib Packs

Captain Dave Facer from New Albany (IN) sent in these photos of their crib packs. As you know from previous posts, we are big fans of efficient ways of storing and carrying equipment on the rigs and on the fireground. The nice thing about this particular idea is that it does both; it stores well and carries well. Their crib packs utilize 18” long unpainted, non-pressure treated soft wood cribbing. Each crib-pack consists of (8)-4×4’s, (4)-2×4’s and (4)-4×4 wedges. Each pack builds an 18” platform when used as a 2×2 box crib stack. The 3/4” plywood can be utilized as a base when working in soft or uneven terrain. The plywood can also be utilized as a sliding base allowing the crib stack to be built from beside (not under) the vehicle, eventually being slid into position. The plywood can also be used as a shield in-between the patient and the tools when working in tight situations.


As you can see, basic notes were drawn onto the plywood for quick reference for their crib stack capacity, heights, configurations, and airbag information to make sure everyone is on the same page. The rubber mat (commercial mud flap) can be used for soft victim protection or for protecting lift bags when the need arises. The plywood is sandwiched by the cribbing and secured with two 1” ratchet straps.


Each crib pack takes little time to assemble but deploys quickly and provides a fast and convenient way to transport a fair amount of cribbing. Each pack weighs about 30 lbs. and one firefighter can carry two Crib Packsacks without difficulty.


The 6×6 cribbing is bundled with 3 small loops (yellow) and one large loop (red) that holds all 4 pieces together with one handle. This allows one firefighter to carry two bundles to the scene and build a 22” box crib for each trip made from the rig. The different colored webbing handle makes it easy to remember which loop is the “main loop” and keeps the bundle organized and compact.


This is simple and effective way to store, and efficiently carry, cribbing to the scene. Taking a little extra time to come up with efficient methods like this go a long way on the emergency scene.


Keyed Vise Grips

Engineer Brandon Daniel from Kannapolis (NC) Fire Department send in these photos of his modified vise grips. As you can see from the photo, he made two simple modifications to the vise grips that make the tool more versatile.



The first is replacing the set screw with a threaded eye bolt. This modification not only makes the eye bolt easier to manipulate with a gloved hand, it also serves as an attachment point for webbing when using the vise grips to stabilize a padlock when cutting with the rotary saw. The other modification was welding a key tool to the handle of the vise grips. This ensures that the key tool is always readily available when utilizing thru-the-lock techniques. Its worth mentioning that may be beneficial to make the tip of the key tool a bit more slender about 3/16″ or so to ensure it fits inside the lock sufficiently to manipulate the mechanism.


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