Archive for the 'Tips' Category

A Welcomed Butt

In today’s fire service we continually have to do more with less. As firefighters we have the mindset to improvise, adapt, and overcome problems we encounter. Unfortunately, we are now forced to accomplish this with fewer personnel on scene. To overcome this we need to look for clever ways to accomplish certain routine tasks. We often find ourselves having to throw ladders on concrete or similar slick surfaces and work off of them. How many videos have you seen where the ladder slips out from under a firefighter as they climb? Has it even happen to you? We all know no one wants to be the guy butting a ladder during a fire, and we certainly can’t afford to take someone away from performing more important tasks on the fireground. How about using the doormat found at the front door of a home? Yes the one that says “Welcome”! The doormat can be placed under the butt of your ladder allowing the ladder to grip the concrete better. These mats are commonly found at most doors leading into a home or commercial properties. Look for anything that may add some friction between the butts and the concrete. With less personnel on scene we need to be on the look out for things that will make us more efficient and finding a way to butt your own ladder is just one of them.

The nice thing about these types of options is that they still allow the ladder to be moved in a hurry when needed. There would be nothing worse then to see a brother or sister in trouble at a window and to be delayed by untying the ladder. Anything that can get the ladder raised quicker or moved quicker is a good thing!


Induction Loop Video

A few years ago we published a post titled Induction Loop Trick. In the post we wrote about how and why induction loops worked. We thought it would be appropriate to post a video demonstrating the trick in action. We even introduce a few options not mentioned in the original post. Depending on how the gate in installed, this trick may not work in every instance, however it’s good to keep in mind when trying to gain access to a gated building. It’s tricks like this that set the Truck Company apart from the rest!





Locate and Confine

After the Governor’s Island project conducted by the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST), Underwriters Laboratories(UL), and FDNY, the internet seems to be flooded with great information on flow paths and the importance of confining fire. Most importantly, confining fire is “buying” possible victims’ time from heat and toxic smoke, as well as reducing rapid fire spread. It is extremely important for the interior search teams to find the fire quickly and if possible, confine it. Even if no door is present, i.e. kitchens, find any interior door that can be forced off its hinges and place in the open doorway.

Closing the door while performing vent enter search (VES) operations is a key task. This confines the room being searched from fire and smoke, increasing the survivability of that room. That same tactic needs to be implemented for the fire room, locate and confine so we slow the spread of fire and smoke.

As you can see in the photos, even hollow core wooden doors will hold back fire.



These photos were taken after a recent fire in a single family residence. This door separated the fire room and kitchen, which then led to the remainder of the house. The door was closed before fire was able to spread into the kitchen, saving the home from further fire and smoke damage. The door also provided interior search crews with lighter smoke conditions while searching the uninvolved portion of the home.

Locating and confining fire will save lives and property!


Can Mount

The Water Can is one of the most useful, yet underutilized pieces of equipment on the fireground. A Water Can can put out a fair amount of fire in the hands of a well trained fireman. But before it can be effective, it actually needs to be removed from the rig.

How is the Can stored on your rig? Is is easily accessible, or is it stored behind other equipment. If is not easy to grab, is that one of the reasons it is not used more? Below is easy method to give you the ability to quickly grab the Can off the rig. Another benefit of this mounting solution is it frees up some room in a compartment, allowing for other equipment to be stored in its place.


The mount is simply a piece of 8 inch diameter PVC pipe bolted on the running board of the rig. The pipe was obtained from the local water utility company for free. They even placed a chamfer on the edge to give it a more finished look. (They use the chamfer when placing the pipe into a coupling.) A quick coat of paint and you’re good to go.


Carriage bolts are the hardware of choice since they have a low profile head. They are a little tricky to secure, but work best for this application.


One drawback to this style of mount is it doesn’t lend itself to being utilized with a Can strap. Most of the commercial Can straps would take up too much room in the pipe, and prevent the Can from fitting. The Can in the picture below has a simple strap that has both ends snapped on the the Can’s wall hanging bracket. It’s not the best way to secure a strap, but it’s better than not having a strap at all.


If it’s easier to grab, it may just get used more often…


Maxximus Tool Package

Engineer TJ Riggs from Federal Fire San Diego (CA) Truck 11 sent in photos of his homemade strap, bundling together a Maxximus Rexx halligan, aluminum wedge, and a small sledgehammer.

rexxstrap rexxstrap4

Elastic secures an aluminum wedge on the pike, while allowing it to be easily removed when deploying the wedge. Two Velcro straps secure the head of the sledgehammer into a ring. There is a support rope, protected with heat shrink tubing, sewn in on each end to keep the halligan from sliding in the harness. This also holds acts as a backup in case the harness opens up accidentally.



This is well put together forcible entry package, especially for thru-the-lock. If your not familiar with the Maxximus Rexx halligan it is a newly released halligan from Fire Hooks Unlimited with some nice modifications. One being the adz has been modified into it’s own version of an “A tool” making it a great thru-the-lock halligan. The aluminum wedge works well for gaining a gap or purchase in tightly sealed doors, this wedge obviously holds up better than a conventional wooded wedge. The small sledgehammer is used as a striking tool for pulling lock cylinders with the modified adz/A tool of the Maxximus Rexx halligan.

It is important to come off the rig with whatever tool(s) you are going to need to accomplish the task at hand, no one wants to run back to the rig multiple times. So we want to know, is there any unique “tool packages” you like to carry?


Take This Door And Shove It

We all know that the shove knife can be a very useful tool during non-emergent runs, like automatic fire alarms (AFA) . They are commonly used to gain entry into rooms that have an outward swinging door with a simple “slam latch”.

How many times have you responded to an AFA and found the Fire Alarm Control Panel (FACP) locked inside a room with no key to be found? How about an elevator equipment room or an electrical room, all locked and missing keys? A majority of the time these rooms will have an outward swinging door with a “slam latch”. A perfect way to defeat this type of door, with zero damage, is the use of a shove knife. Like any tool, shove knives have their limitations and knowing ways to overcome them will set us up for success. One drawback is not being able to “shove” a door when a latch guard is present. The latch guard is installed to keep intruders from using the shove knife concept and defeating the lock. Unfortunately for us, this eliminates the potential to utilize a shove knife as well… Until now.



An easy way to shove this type of door and overcome the latch guard is the use a 24 inch piece of weed-eater cord. Start by fishing the cord down from above the guard and behind the latch. The nice thing about weed eater cord is that is maintains a bit of a “memory” when unrolled it will still have a natural arc that helps get it into place behind the latch.


Next, pull the cord out from the bottom of the guard, you should now have the cord wrapped behind the latch.


Finally, pull both top and bottom ends of the cord towards you while doing an up and down sawing motion til the door pops open. Hint: Placing a little pressure on the door with your foot makes fishing the line in place easier because it allows the latch to sit properly in its keeper.


This technique is surprisingly simple, but of course we recommend practicing on doors at the firehouse. The technique works just as well on doors without latch guards. Keep in mind that some doors are placed so tight into the frame that you may not have the room to fish the cord into place or defeat a tamper pin. Most slam latches are accompanied with a tamper pin. The tamper pin is the small semi-circle pin located adjacent to the slam latch (see photo above). The tamper pin works by staying outside the latch keeper causing it to be depressed when the door is closed. When the tamper pin is engaged it is intended to prevent the ability to manipulated the lock with items like shove knives and weed-eater cords. Confused? Find a door with a slam latch and tamper pin, open the door and press the tamper pin towards the door and you’ll find that the slam latch will not move inward. Now let the pin extend back out and notice the slam latch operates properly. When you place inward pressure on the door with your foot we are trying to push the tamper pin into the keeper (allowing it to fully extend) thus defeating the pin.

One benefit about weed-eater cord is that it’s cheap and light. It can be easily carried rolled up in your coat pocket without taking up any room or adding noticeable weight. While this technique might not work on every latch guard installation you come across, it is a simple and effective way to defeat most of them.


Man In Machine Kit

Every truck company should be prepared to handle those obscure rescues like: machinery entrapments (fingers, hands, arms) Child stuck in a swing seat, and even simple ring removals. These calls can easily be handled by a well-trained and properly equipped crew and a little ingenuity. Included below are some photos and inventory list of the Man in Machine (MIM) Kit carried on Winter Park (FL) Truck 61. The kit is carried in a Pelican Box with shelves made from ½” HDPE plastic, and tools are secured in place with Velcro straps. The box is a little on the heavy side, but meets the need. We’ll point out a few of the more oddball items included in the kit with a quick explanation of how it’s utilized.

Many of the newer style of wedding rings are made from more exotic materials than previously found like tungsten carbide and titanium. These modern ring materials are to strong for the traditional ring removal tools often found in medical bags. This kit contains a ring cracker specifically made for tungsten carbide rings and a dremel tool and spoon handles for cutting titanium rings. The spoon handle is placed under the ring in between the ring and patients finger so the dremel blade does not come in contact with skin.


The snap ring pliers is a great tool to carry since many machine components like rollers are held in place by snap rings on the ends. The snap rings are present to allow of the machine to be taken apart for maintenance. When dealing with a MIM type rescue, sometimes the simplest way to remove the entrapment is to take the effected portion of the machine apart instead of just trying to pry or defeat it in a destructive and often more time consuming method.


Having simple lubricants handy like soapy water and vegetable oil work well in instances when less traumatic injuries are present and the effected body part is simply “stuck.” The water can be used as a cooling agent when any of the grinding tools are being utilized. Simply poking a few holes in the cap of the water bottle allows for the water to be squeezed out or dripped into the area of need.


This kit is by no means the best kit out there; it has been assembled to handle the most common types of MIM incidents Truck 61 has encountered. Depending on the type of entrapment other items found on the truck are also utilized such as simple mechanics tools.








(1) 9” PRY BAR and (1) 11” PRY BAR








(1) 18“ PRY BAR

(1) LARGE HACK SAW (stored on back side of tray)







(1) 1000ml VEGETABLE OIL

(1) 1000ml WATER

(1) 1000ml SOAPY WATER


There are some tremendous resources available to learn more about MIM type Rescues, the guys over at have some great resources. Also has been featuring a bunch of MIM props that Andrew Brassard from has been submitting. It doesn’t take much to assemble a kit to increase your capabilities for the often challenging calls. So what other items have you found a need for in your MIM kit?


Pin It

Andy Golz from Duluth (MN) Engine 1 sent in this simple and effective way to pin the Water Can. This tip works for replacing a missing pin, or to simply ensure the pin remains in place. They found a 2 ½” cotter pin and secured it in place with some paracord. The pin is tight enough that it remains in place without a zip tie, yet is still loose enough so that it is easy to pull when needed. The paracord also makes it easier to pull the pin with a gloved hand.


Can You Hear Me Now?

Almost 7 years ago we featured a post titled Under, Over, or Not At All? discussing the pros and cons and the ins and outs of wearing a radio strap on the fireground. The post generated a great discussion with well over 100 comments. Many of our readers certainly have their preferences and some had great justifications. Recently, Fairfax County (VA) did an extensive study and report on the topic. Click here for the report. The report makes some pretty startling discoveries, and should be reviewed by everyone in the fire service, from the guys crawling down the halls, and to the Chiefs behind the desk.

The photo above shows the least ideal, but unfortunately the most common way to carry a radio, a coat integrated radio pocket. Signal loss, the actual closure of the pocket failing to keep the radio contained and exposing the radio to a greater level of thermal insult are all likely scenarios with this method of carry. The worst case scenario would be radio failure that could potentially lock up the tactical channel, having a negative impact to everyone of the fire ground.


Besides the obvious added entanglement hazard, carrying the radio on the exterior of a coat also exposes it to the negative conditions found on the fireground. The strap outside the coat also puts the radio at a higher risk for failure due to thermal and moisture issues.


Carrying the radio with a strap under the coat, but hanging low enough to have the antenna outside and away from the body (see photo below) is the most ideal and gives the user the best operational reliability.


So after reading the detailed report, has anyone have a change of heart? Is anyone going to start to carry the radio differently based on this report? Do any of your departments MANDATE a particular method of carry? We suggest printing the report and leaving it on the kitchen table for everyone to review and discuss. One of the most important findings in the report is that the failure of a single radio on the fireground could potentially put everyone else at risk by tying up the fireground tactical channel. A special thanks goes out to the Communication Section Of Fairfax County Fire for their commitment to this research and sharing of this report.


Saw Bracket

Lieutenant Kevin Nay from Leyden (IL) Fire Protection District sent in this easy saw modification. They were looking for a simple way to secure the chainsaw when not in use while operating on a peaked roof. They fabricated a bracket from scrap plate aluminum found in the shop. The bracket simply uses the existing screw holes for attaching the bracket to the saw. The cost was under $2 for the longer screws.

This technique is useful for chainsaws that have the depth guard on the bar. Making this modification changes how the saw “sits” (as seen below) but will not change how the saw “feels.” Either way everyone should get hands on and train with the saw after this (or any) modification to become familiar with it.


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