Heat Shrink Tool Wrap


There are a number of different methods to wrap tools. Some work better, and hold up better to fireground conditions. Two of the most frequently wrapped tools are hooks and halligans. It is important to point out that there may be a drawback to wrapping the halligan. The wrap on the handle of the halligan interferes with the ability to strike the halligan on the squared shoulder of the fork in tight situations. One of the most frequent wrap methods involves using oxygen tubing (or rope) and athletic tape. Unfortunately, this tubing/tape combination Is one of the worst in regards to fireground durability. Chief Ted Bownas from Millbrook (NY) fire sent in this idea for wrapping a hook that involves some copper wire and heat shrink tubing. Once the heat shrink tubing is in place, it will hold up better to the beating we subject our tools to on the fireground. This particular wrap uses 12AWG wire and heavy duty 2-1/2″ heat-shrink tubing. The wire was wrapped around the hook and temporarily held in place with a few strips of electrical tape. This tape simply holds the wire wrap in place while the heat shrink is slid into position and heated. It is important to point out that heat shrink tubing of this diameter requires a higher-wattage heat gun to produce the heat required to shrink the tubing.



Interior Security Bars

We have shown interior security bars on the site before, but these are a bit different, they are actually being installed during the initial construction of the building. These bars were found and sent in by the crew of DCFD Engine Co. 27 (Firefighter J. Stapleton, Firefighter A. Pumilia, Technician D. Mungo and Lt. K. Kline.) Interior security bars pose an interesting hazard to our operations. It’s worth mentioning that the ones shown here may not actually be noticeable from the outside. They are set far enough inside the window that window blinds would obscure them. So it’s possible that the inside team may be the first to discover them. The issue with this particular instillation is that the window needs to be taken out before the bars can be attacked and removed. These bars don’t look to be too substantial, but they need to be discovered, and removed early in the operation.

*The picture below has a piece of plywood being held behind the bars to show contrast for the photo.


Rollup Pin Lock


Lieutenant Brian Dalrymple from Richmond (VA) sent in these pictures of a different roll-up gate lock then we have shown here in the past. This particular lock is a pin style lock that goes through an opening in the channel and “cams” into the locked position. As you can tell from the photos below once the lock is “cammed” into place it prevents the roll-up gate from opening. There are a number of methods that would defeat this locking mechanism. Certainly, attacking the gate channel in methods shown in this previous post would work. Upon closer inspection, it was determined that those methods won;t work on this particular lock. Another option may be to attack the exposed cam by inserting the rotary saw in between the gate and the channel at a 45 degree angle.


The photo above shows what the lock looks like removed from the gate. The face of the lock is about 2” in diameter and the overall length is about 4” long. When the is gate closed, the lock is inserted through the channel, the key is then turned ½ turn. Turning the key causes the last ¾” of the lock to “cam out” thereby locking itself in place.


The photo below shows the back of the lock. You can see once the cam is is the lock position, it holds the lock mechanism in place.



Buffalo MAYDAY Training

Lieutenant Ronald K Bourgeois from Buffalo (NY) Engine 1 sent in this video of a MAYDAY prop they are using in Buffalo. Unfortunately, the motivation for the prop and annual training came from the tragic loss of two of Buffalo’s Bravest on August 24, 2009. Lt. Chip McCarthy and FF Jonathon Croom both fell from the first floor into the basement while searching for a reported person trapped in the structure. (We recently received some additional information from BFD about this training. The training was in the works well before the tragic LODD. The planning and development of this training actually began in January of 2009, before the LODD incident, not as a reaction to the incident.)

The purpose of this prop and training evolution is to build confidence and promote self rescue techniques. The portion of the prop shown in the video is part of a confined space maze that ends with the blindfolded firefighter falling through the floor. The collapsible floor section is activated by an instructor pulling on a rope, removing the hinged floor section’s support. Once the floor section collapses, the firefighter falls into a pit filled with foam. The pads end up surrounding the firefighter making movement a bit more difficult, similar to having debris from the collapse. The prop also contains a window at the end of the foam pit so the firefighter can practice self rescue form a high window. The prop cost was roughly $450, and was constructed with 2×4’s and ½” plywood. The trap doors were hinged with three heavy duty hinges, with a lip underneath for support. A hinged 2×4 holds the doors up and a rope is the trip mechanism.

Unfortunately, we cannot take back any of the LODD that occur in our line of work, but we can learn from them and try to prevent them from occurring again. Training evolutions like this are an important component to learning from them.




Residential Security Door

Lieutenant Nate Quartier from Ormond Beach (FL) Engine 94 sent in these photos of something the crew was discussing around the firehouse. One of the brothers, Jim Peter was telling the crew about a new residential security door he saw at the local home improvement store. So after a short discussion, the crew loaded up and headed to the store for some impromptu in-service training. (Which is a great idea, an amazing amount of training opportunities await us there.) At first glance the door appears to look like any other residential door, but the price tag alone should let you know it has something a little extra. (Of course the price won’t be known when we come across it on a structure.) The door is an outward swinging door with an extra lip over the jamb to cover the traditional gap, and the hinges are more substantial, more like hinges found on some commercial doors. Upon closer inspection, it becomes obvious what sets this door apart from the others. It basically has six deadbolts (4 in the middle, and one top and one bottom) that are all controlled by a single lock mechanism.

Below is a video for the product. Don’t mind the fact that it is a promotional video, it still has some good information about the construction of the door. We certainly question their forcible entry demonstration, but it seems that through-the-lock would be the simplest way to go on this one. Speaking of their forcible entry techniques… That is why it is important to train, study different doors, and lock mechanisms, and to identify and visualize when forcing a door. No one who ever wears our uniform should look that ridiculous when faced with a challenging door.



Rex Hook


Sgt. Pullen from DCFD Truck 4 sent in his idea of “making it work” with another rex tool modification. The tool was created by removing the collar from a mini rex tool and adding it to a shortened halligan (NY roof) hook. Once the collar was removed from the mini rex, a hole was drilled through the head, and a 2” piece of round stock was added. The round stock was then sleeved (and welded) into the hollow end of the shortened hook. The round stock gives the tool the strength required when prying with the rex head. The welding was performed by FF Wipprecht from Truck 4.

Sgt Pullen points out that the tool has proven to be useful for a number of different situations: going through-the-lock on investigations, lock-out’s/lock-in’s, forcing into the “charlie” side with nothing evident, into exposures, and to the floor above in apartment houses. All with minimal damage to the door and sometimes even quicker than conventional methods.

Obviously the shortened four foot hook has some advantages and disadvantages. Some advantages are that it’s nice to have the rex tool handy without the weight of it in the pocket, the tool has the strength and stability required for the lateral movement of working the rex head behind the lock, and it provides the user with a hook once entry has been made. Some disadvantages are that the tool is too long to be used in some hallways, and is too short for extended use pulling ceiling over head.

It’s just another great example of firehouse ingenuity and working smarter, not harder.


Make It Work For You

We have said it before, ingenuity is an important part of our job. We should always be thinking of ways to make ourselves more effective on the fireground. One of the ways of doing that is by evaluating ways to modify our tools to increase their usage on the job. Many of the tools currently found on every fire apparatus in the world have their original roots as firehouse creations. Fortunately for us there are a few reputable tool companies that have taken these creations and made them available to everyone.


Firefighter Plunkett from a New York suburb fire department sent in a picture of his modified rex tool. The main benefit to this modification is that it makes the tool pocket size so it’s one less thing to carry. This particular modification allows for the tool to be utilized with a halligan and has both a slot for the adz and a collar for the pike. There are pros and cons to using the adz or pike depending on the situation. The nice thing about having the adz slot on the tool is having the ability to apply lateral force (side to side motion) when working the tool behind the lock. Rex tool modifications are nothing new, in fact, there is now a commercially made “lil rex” that is very similar to the homebrew version here but with just the pike collar. Regardless if this particular modification is right for you or your company, the idea is to think outside the box. There are many great tools already available for our profession, but with some simple modifications, you may be able to make the suit your own needs.

Modifying tools to suit company or personal preferences is a good thing. however, don’t forget the most important step, TRAIN WITH IT!


Vent Grills


We have shown many photos in the past of deceptive buildings. We truly believe they all hold a valuable teaching point regardless if they are located in your area or not. The idea is to spark your curiosity to evaluate all of the buildings in your response area. Perhaps more importantly when evaluating buildings and building construction, you should always suspect that what you are looking at my not be the case. Engineer Steven Negedly from Orlando Engine 9 sent in some more photos that prove this point. These pictures are taken at the headquarters building for a local mass-transit bus company. The business type alone should have you on the look-out for something out of the ordinary, and the vent grills in place of some of the windows should be the dead giveaway. Well the backside of that “structure” reveals the truth, it’s simply a facade that contains the fuel tanks (biodiesel, diesel, and gasoline.) Keep your eyes open, know your area, and always expect the unexpected.



Solar Shield


Neil Duffy from Boca Raton (FL) sent in these pictures of some solar shields being installed on a new building in his area. The shields are designed to cut down on the sun’s radiant heat from being absorbed into the building at each window. Since the building is located in South Florida, the windows are also hurricane rated. The shields are made from heavy gauge steel and mesh screen. The picture shows a mocked up section of the building that contractors build early in the construction phase to show what the final product may look like. The finished building will be eight stories tall with the solar shields on the southern and western exposed windows.


Since the shields standoff of the building approximately three feet, it leaves just enough room to make assess or perform a rescue or vent from a ground ladder. The upper floors however may be more difficult. Since the aerial device may not be able to get close enough to the building, it may not allow for a steep enough angle to get underneath or around the obstruction. Defeating the shields with a rotary saw is certainly an option, but will be slow going, and must be done cautiously. Cutting the mesh to the left and right sides would probably be the best bet, leaving the heavy square tube bracket in place. Caution must be exercised with the shield falling away or even becoming a sail and falling away from the building in an unpredictable manner. Cutting one side and bending the shield away may also be an option, but would more than likely need to be performed from a tower ladder. Regardless of how you and your crew would handle dealing with this obstacle, the key to success is discussing it ahead of time, and training on whatever technique you would utilize.

The trend toward more “green” building construction is undoubtedly change our business. You may not see anything like this in your area yet, but keep an eye out for it, it’s only a matter of time.


Reflective Ladder


Jeff Silver from Raleigh (NC) Ladder 1 sent in this ladder modification. They simply took a few strips of DOT reflective tape and placed them on the beams of the ladders. In addition to these markings, they still mark the balance point. This simple modification allows the ladders to be more easily seen in low light conditions. The photo below shows what a difference this idea can make. The pictures were taken by local photographer Mike Legeros and were shown on his blog.


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