All Jacked Up

There are three main styles of jacks that a frequently found on our rigs. They each have their strengths and weaknesses, so we decided to do a little comparison in this post. The three main jacks that will be discussed are Hi-Lift Jacks (left), Bottle Jacks (middle), and Racing Style Floor Jacks (right).

Bottle Jacks are the smallest (in size) of the jacks reviewed. The size to lift ratio on this style of jack is tremendous with some bottle jacks having lift capacities in excess of 20 tons. Most bottle jacks have an adjustment screw that can be used to bridge the gap from the jack’s fully collapsed (stored) size to the height of load that will be lifted. The adjustment screw prevents wasting any of the lifting stroke of the jack. The handle of a bottle jack is typically small, and requires more movements to produce lift. The handle size and location typically require the operator to be very close, and possibly under the load, which present obvious safety concerns.

A small 2 ton bottle jack would have a 7” stored height with about 5” of potential lift. This would result in about 12” of extended height up to about 15” of height when the extension screw is in use. This jack would typically have a 3.5’ x 4” base and weigh about 6 pounds. Keep in mind that the 7” stored height of this jack won’t fit under most common passenger vehicles.

A larger 20 ton bottle jack would have a 11” stored height with about 7” of potential lift. This would result in about 18” of extended height up to about 21” of height when the extension screw is in use. This jack would typically have a 6” x 6.5” base and weigh about 31 pounds.

Racing jacks (floor jacks) are the quickest an easiest to use of the different jacks being discussed. Racing jacks are typically fabricated out of steel, aluminum, or a combination. Aluminum is obviously the lightest, and as a result, is typically the most expensive. Aluminum is the best choice for our use since we’ll be required to pull the jack out of a compartment. No reason to create a career ending injury just to save a little bit of cash on this useful piece of equipment. Racing jacks with the single solid large wheel on the front are better and easier to maneuver than the ones with two smaller wheels on either side of the jack. Some manufactures even offer a “low profile” racing jack if the average stored height is a concern. Racing jacks typically have long handles that place the operator away from the lift. This provides a little more safety and allows the operator to see more of the lifting evolution during its use. Racing jacks also require the fewer movements of the handle to produce all of the jacks lift potential. The one pictured here produces 1 ¼” of lift with each pump and only requires 9 pumps. One drawback to the racing jack is the natural arc of movement produced during the lift. As long as this arc is understood and anticipated ahead of time, it shouldn’t produce too much of an issue during a typical lifting operation. Because of this arc either the jack, or the load is going to move during the lift. There might be certain operations where this arc could cause issue however. Racing jacks also have the ability to roll with a load on them, which again, depending on circumstances could be either a good thing or bad thing.

Both the bottle jack and racing jack produce their lift via a hydraulic cylinder. As with any other hydraulic cylinder, they need to periodically be used and placed under a load. Simply taking the jack out of the compartment and operating it in a non-loaded fashion is not enough. Placing it under a load ensures that the O-rings maintain lubrication, and handle pressure, and support a load. Any time a new jack is placed in service it should be noted how many pumps it requires to operate correctly. Its not a bad idea to write on the jack how many pumps it takes so you can always gauge the jack’s performance.

Hi-Lift jacks come three different lengths, and even a specialized series of “first responder” jacks. All three models are rated at 4660lbs (but are tested to 7000lbs. Its important to note that the last 12” of lifting height of the larger 60” jack is only rated for 2660lbs (tested to 4000lbs.) Please note that the Hi-Lift shown in these photos has the top clamp-clevis removed due to the way the jack is stored in the rig.

The 36” Hi-Lift weighs 27lbs max and has a max lifting height of 27”. The 48” Hi-Lift weighs 30.2lbs and has a max lifting height of 38.63”. The 60” Hi-Lift weighs 33.3lbs and has a max lifting height of 49.75”.

The Hi-Lift has the greatest range of motion, each pump of the handle produces about 7/8” of lift requiring 55 pumps to produce 50” on lift on the largest jack. The jack tends to be unstable when standing on it’s own, but it becomes much more stable when placed under a load. The part that actually holds the load is relatively small, and does not project far from the jack, this limits the lift (or purchase) points of the jack. Most modern vehicles don’t have solid bumpers anymore, so we have to look for other options. One of the most effective lift points on a vehicle is the wheel well. It will damage the vehicle, but if someone is trapped under it, that should be the least of your worries. Hi-Lift also offers an accessory called the LM-100 Lift Mate, which is specifically made for this purpose and to prevent damage. The Lift Mate is rated at 5,000lbs and attaches to the jack to provide two hooks that can attach to almost any style wheel. This allows the jack to get a purchase on the wheel as the lift point as shown below.

The Hi-lift requires the most maintenance of each of the jacks reviewed. The climbing pins and reversing latch all need to be lubed in order to work smoothly. The Hi-Lift also requires the most training to remember how to use it correctly. However, the most interesting thing about Hi-Lift’s is that they can be used for much more then simple lifting operations. For example, they can be used either as a winch or as a clamp with a 7000lb rating. These expanded capabilities make the Hi-Lift (particularly the first responder edition) and excellent “tool for the tool box.”

Click here for the detailed instruction manual on the jack.

In the photo below each jack is raised to it’s highest point.

As with any other lifting operation, the adage of lift-an-inch / crib-an-inch applies. We should not make a habit of operating under a load that is only supported by a jack, regardless of which type of jack it is. A quick stack of cribbing makes the operation much safer with little effort. Anytime we are lifting a vehicle we should make sure to chock the wheels to prevent any front to back movement during the lifting operation. We need to remember that when we raise a vehicle on the front and back axis, the vehicle will naturally raise in an arc motion. Both the bottle jack, and the Hi-Lift jacks remain stationary, which could result in either the jack tipping over, or the vehicle slipping off the lift point of the jack. The floor jack on the other hand is designed to work with this arc, since it can roll into position.

The two photos below show how arc that is created as the racing jack is operated.

As we mentioned earlier each jack has its pros and cons, its all a matter of determining what your needs are and understanding which jack is best for the task at hand. Its not a bad idea to have one (or more) of each style jack available for whatever may come your way.


Boxed Lock

Alex Newman sent in these pictures of an interesting supplemental lock he recently came across. Alex was a firefighter with Escambia County (FL) prior to leaving to join the military. Even though he’s currently deployed, he’s still thinking like a firefighter!

As you can see in the image below the supplemental lock is secured with a “guarded” padlock.

Below, the lock has been removed, on the left door you can see the tab that the supplemental lock slides into. On the right door you can see the bracket where the padlock would go when its installed.

Below is the supplemental lock removed.

There are a few different options for forcing this set-up. Bolt cutters would certainly be the quickest, but only if they were readily available. Unless we knew this lock was present ahead of time, but that’s not likely. The tabs on the door are through-bolted and back plated, so the bolts are not likely to be “pulled through” the door by prying. The depth that the padlock is recessed might be the solution. The padlock looks shallow enough that the pike of the halligan could be inserted into the shackle. Once the halligan is in place, a few solid strikes with an 8lb axe would either defeat the padlock or hasp.

The rotary saw is always an option as well. In this case a small cut on the left side of the supplemental lock would defeat it’s attachment point on that door as shown below. Once that is complete, forcing the door traditionally with the irons (above or below the supplemental lock) would complete the task. The supplemental lock would remain attached to the left door, and swing out of the way when that door was opened.



Nate Quartier from Ormond Beach (FL) Quint 92 “B” sent in something they recently ran across in a local church. Crewmember Jim Peters noticed an odd looking piece of metal sitting on a table.

Upon giving it a closer look, they noticed it was actually a little drop bar for an exterior door. After some investigating they noticed all of the other exterior doors had they installed as well. The mini-bar (no, not that kind of mini-bar) simply drops into place on the lower knob-side corner of the door, and holds onto the inside of the frame.

The exterior of the door did reveal 2 small rivet heads for the bracket, however they might go unnoticed in the dark. They crew dropped the bar into place and began lightly “testing the door” and found it to be much more sturdy than it appears. Anyone good with the irons will still be able to get this door fairly easily, but it’ll put up some good resistance at the bottom. Removing the rivets by punching them through with the pike of the halligan might be a viable option.

Another thing to consider is if a crewmember encounters this supplemental lock from the inside while trying to make an escape of the building. What if the drop bar was padlocked to the bracket? Placing the halligan just to the right of the bracket and to the left of the “hook” that goes to the door, a clockwise twist should shear the bolts and defeat the lock. Or perhaps placing the halligan in the same spot and simply pulling back, using the halligan as a lever might be another viable option. We need to expect supplemental locks on every door, and be able to identify and visualize how to remove and defeat them, both from the outside and the inside. Just another reason why secondary means of egress should be established early in the incident, before they are ever needed.


If We Don’t Search It Who Will?

Strong work from Columbus (OH) Ladder 23! They had a fire at a “Vacant” structure… They searched the structure and found a 8 year old boy inside, who probably would have not made it if it wasn’t for their actions. Reports are the ladder was first on scene and kept the fire in check with a few water cans.

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Interior Bars

Captain Tony Carroll from DC Truck Co. No. 9 sent in this detailed write-up on security bars that Rescue Co. No. 2 recently found on an apartment building. Finding bars on the ground floor of an apartment building is not uncommon, however these bars are located inside the window. We have shown interior security bars before on the site, but Captain Carroll has a detailed analysis of this particular setup that we wanted to share. Click here to download the file.

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Aggressive Truck Functions and VES Class

VentEnterSearch’s own Jimm Walsh will be presenting a full day Truck Company presentation in Baden, Pennsylvania on Saturday June 8, 2013. The day will include two of Jimm’s popular Truck Company presentations: Aggressive Truck Functions for a Safer Fireground and V.E.S. is not a Four Letter Word.

The Aggressive Truck Functions for a Safer Fireground component of the presentation discusses the importance of aggressive truck functions and their positive impact on fireground safety and how they contribute to the success of crews on the fireground.

The V.E.S. is not a Four Letter Word component of the presentation discusses the widely misunderstood and underutilized tactic of Vent, Enter, and Search. It covers why VES is actually the safest most effective way to search a building and how to utilize VES in a safe and efficient manner to maximize effectiveness on the fireground.

Please click here to download the flyer for additional information and registration information.


Interesting Bed

Kyle Rice from Christiana (DE) Station 12 sent in this interesting picture found on a non-fire related website.

Seeing this from the outside while performing a VES might be slightly confusing, and possibly dangerous. If the doors to the bed are closed, it could possibly prevent “reading” the conditions in the room prior to entering from the window. Taking the window would more than likely allow minimal smoke to escape, giving the appearance that there is little smoke present in the room. Fortunately, it should be quite obvious from the ladder that the bed in just inside the window opening, and that the bed is surrounded by this enclosure.

Finding this from the inside might also pose a few challenges, namely egress and search. If the doors were closed, and moderate smoke conditions present in the room, the window could go unnoticed as an emergency egress. It could also be confusing since an inside team might expect to see a window as soon as they make entry into the bedroom. Unfortunately a sloppy search team might miss the bed entirely if the doors were in the closed position.

Going into a search you should have some expectations in mind. You should “trust but verify” these expectations, but don’t get vapor locked on them. When you encounter something out of the norm, you should quickly determine what it is, what if any impact it may have on your operations, and continue the task at hand.


Flashlight Wedge

Having a wedge ready to go and easily accessible is simple an effective way to make your forcible entry more effective. The photo below are from Joe from Engine 32 (NJ.) He simply used some zip ties and a piece of heat shrink tubing to create a place to carry a wedge on the back of his flashlight. This method allows the wedge to easily accessed without fumbling through your pockets, and keeps the wedge off of your helmet. Obviously this particular setup only allows for one wedge to be carried, so others will still have to be carried in another manner. Remember, one wedge is never enough! Of course, this wedge could get lost at some point, but since they are not made of gold, and you always carry more than one, it shouldn’t be an issue.

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FDIC 2013

VentEnterSearch’s own Jimm Walsh will be presenting a class titled Aggressive Truck Functions for a Safer Fireground at FDIC 2013. The class will be on Wednesday April 24, 2013 @ 13:30 in room 136-137

Here is a short description of the class:

Many people associate the term aggressive with unsafe, particularly when it
comes to truck company functions. The fireground can actually be made safer
through the timely execution of truck company functions. This presentation will
stress the importance of aggressive truck functions on the fireground and their
positive impact on fireground safety. Due to the limited staffing that most
departments are currently facing, we must improve our efficiency on the fire
ground. Many departments are cutting staffing or eliminating truck companies
all together. Aggressive truck functions will allow everyone on the fireground
to work in a safer and more efficient manner. This presentation will expand,
and give valuable insight on the understanding of aggressive yet safe truck
company skills, and the value of training. Class participants will gain valuable
tips on how to increase the efficiently and effectiveness of their truck
company functions. In addition, participants will better understand the
necessity of truck company functions on every fire. Most importantly,
participants will better understand how aggressive truck company functions
can be utilized to create a safer fireground.

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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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