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.


Keynote Presentation and Leadership Classes


Jimm Walsh will be heading to the 23rd Annual North Country New Hampshire Emergency Services Conference on November 13-15, 2015 at the North Conway Grand Hotel in North Conway, New Hampshire.
He will not only have the pleasure of of facilitating two of his popular Leadership classes, he will also be giving the Conference’s Keynote Address titled Responding with Passion, Purpose, and Pride.

The conference is sponsored by Littleton Regional Healthcare in conjunction with New Hampshire State Fireman’s Association. Additional details about the conference can be found by clicking here. Online registration is available here.

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Connex Castle

Senior Captain T. Paget from Houston (TX) Ladder 46 sent in these photos of a new style construction they recently found in their first due area. Like any great crew should do, they stopped and walked through the structure to check out the unique style of construction.

As you can see from the photos these are intermodal box (connex box) containers used as housing. These are the same containers commonly used in flashover simulators and other live fire training structures.


This particular example is a residential duplex with one family upstairs and one family downstairs. The structure is made up of a total of four boxes. Two boxes are stacked on top of each other on the bravo side of the building, and two are stacked on the delta side. They leave a space in between the two stacks of boxes that is later built out with conventional building materials to make up the main living area and kitchen. The bedrooms and bathrooms are located in the actual connex boxes. There are no windows on the B or D sides and only one small window on the C side. The only way in and out is on the A side. The upper unit does have an attic access and a corrugated metal roof.


Fortunately most of us have a great deal of experience fighting fires in these structures. We know from experience that they can hold in a tremendous amount for fire, and retain a lot of heat. As a result, fire extension via convention between the floors should not be the primary concern. Keep in mind that the bathroom areas would still be an area of concern of vertical extension via convection due to plumbing chases. Fire extension via conduction is however a greater possibility then we would typically find in conventional construction materials. These boxes could easily conduct heat from two different areas of the building (ie: the front bedroom to the back bedroom.)


While you may not have seen this style of constitution in your first due, don’t be surprised it if pops up. It possesses two of the most desirable characteristics in the construction industry; quick and cheap. When speaking with the builder, the crew from Ladder 46 found that there will be as many as 18 of these structures being built in the area within the next 3 months. So be on the lookout for these connex castles.


Privacy Door Latch

Engineer Caleb Eiriksson from Fort Walton Beach (FL) Truck Company 6 sent in these photos and information about overcoming the PEMKO Privacy Door Latch. We have featured a large number of supplemental locks over the years, but we haven’t focused much on this one commonly found in many hotels and dormitories. The PEMKO Privacy Door Latch (PDL) is an extremely basic supplemental lock that can be easily defeated once you have a basic understanding of the lock. Under fire conditions, the PDL would not stand a chance to a properly trained firefighter with a well-placed set of irons. But it’s important to know how to defeat the lock in a less destructive fashion during an automatic fire alarm or service calls we often run in these type occupancy’s. Even when a building representative is available to assist with keys to the room, the PDL would still need to be overcome if it were in the latched position.

A Slim Jim from the vehicle lockout kit is one viable option, It works very well due to the tool being long enough to reach behind the latch and it’s flexible enough to allow the door to completely close when it is in place. The main downfall to using the Slim Jim is that it can’t (and shouldn’t) be carried in your pocket and will not be readily available when needed. Unfortunately, a shove knife is too rigid and too short to defeat the latch.


Open the door until the security latch engages


Slide the Slim Jim through the door and over the top and behind the latch.


Slowly pull the door closed while pulling back on the Slim Jim. This will pull the latch into the closed position. as mentioned earlier, the flexibility of the Slim Jim allows the door to be completely closed with the tool in place. Once the latch is disengaged, the door will open freely.

A more realistic and easier method involves the simple piece of webbing that you should already carry in your pocket.


Open the door until the security latch engages.


Slip the single piece of webbing over the top of the mechanism and pull back through the bottom. This is actually more difficult than it looks, and takes a little practice to perfect.


Slowly pull the door closed while pulling on the webbing. This will pull the latch to the closed position. Using a single piece of webbing will allow the door to close completely and prevents the webbing from getting caught in the jam. Once the latch is disengaged, the door will open freely.


Recently, Truck Company 6 ran into a hotel manager who had a homemade tool he carried to defeat the PDL’s is his particular hotel. It’s a simple piece of flexible metal fabricated into a shape that resembles the number 7. This tool works the same a the Slim Jim option mentioned above, but may be a little long (and unrealistic) to carry routinely in a bunker pocket.

A basic understanding of these style locks is essential to successfully defeating them in non-fire situations.. After working with these locks a bit, and seeing how easy they are to defeat with the proper equipment, Truck Company 6 has added both webbing and a shove knife to the medical bags to prevent from having to run back to the rig when these locks are encountered.


Extending Your Hand, Not Your Tool

Searching with a tool is something that every firefighter needs to be proficient in. Unfortunately, like many of the essential fireground skills we must master, most fire schools do not teach real world search techniques. In particular, they don’t cover how to effectively search with a tool. One of the things we must consider when sweeping with the tool is that the tool has no feeling. It transmits to the firefighter the sensation of coming in contact with an object, but it gives no indication of what the object really is. This forces the firefighter to reach out further, potentially coming off of the wall, to verify what the tool struck. Besides the fact that this takes additional time, it could also cause significant, if not fatal damage to the very victim we are trying to save. A simple drill to illustrate this point would be to search for a large piece of fruit (watermelon, cantaloupe, etc.) Perform this search blacked out, swinging a tool as you search. As you can imagine, you will certainly find the melon, but more than likely speared it or beat it up in the process. It could be argued that sweeping with the non-working end of the tool may minimize the damage to the victim (or melon) but perhaps there is a better way.


Lets start off with discussing which hand you carry the tool in when you search. for this method it is best to carry the tool in the hand of the direction of the search pattern. Left hand search pattern = carry tool in left hand, right hand search pattern = carry the tool in your right hand. This places the tool against the wall, and minimizes the desire to swing and sweep into the room with the tool. When the searching firefighter feels the need to “extend” the search and sweep out into the room , the tool is paced against the wall and the firefighter places their foot on the tool.


As you can see from the pictures below, the firefighters reach into the room is the exact same regardless if the foot was on the wall and tool swept into the room or if the tool was placed on the wall and the firefighter stretched out into the room.



Another thing worth mentioning is that simple act of constantly swinging the tool out into the room actually contributes to firefight fatigue. It takes more energy to swing the tool back and forth than it would to just crawl with it.

Like everything else in the fire service, there is a time and a place were certain techniques should be used over another. This technique may or may not work well for you, but you will only know that after you take the time to train with it. Just keep in mind, when performing a search, you are looking for a viable human life in a very time sensitive manner. It is our duty to master the skill of the search and be able to complete the search in the most time sensitive (and least fatal way) possible.

In our next post we will build on this concept an show some additional things we should consider when performing this type of search.


Carrying Tools

We have always been advocates of riding assignments and tool assignments. It’s one of the easiest ways to improve your company’s efficiency and effectiveness on the fireground. Even if your department doesn’t believe in tool assignments, you probably find yourself carrying the same tools on most occasions. How much thought have you put into how you carry your tools? Do you carry them the same way every time? Are you truly maximizing how you carry them, and making it easier on yourself?

Below are some photos of an efficient method of carrying the tools assigned to the outside team on the Truck Company. In these photos you’ll see that the firefighter is carrying the most often needed tools for the outside team: ladder, hook, halligan, light, TIC, and saw.

Below is a photo of a tool assignment for a residential structure. You’ll notice this method allows for a “free hand” to utilize a TIC for additional recon. The TIC is extremely helpful for the outside team to read the building and determine the fires location if its not already vented from a window.


Below are photos of a tool assignment for a commercial structure. In this case the “free hand” is taken up carrying the saw. The TIC is still available for recon since its clipped on the air pack, but obviously the saw would need to be lowered to the ground first.



The trick with this particular carry method is how the halligan and hook are laid inside the beam of the ladder. This allows one hand to “clamp” the tools to the ladder, and essentially allows you to carry three tools in one hand. The beauty of this method is that once you get to the area where the ladder will be deployed, the hook and halligan can easily be dropped without fumbling around. Allowing the ladder to be thrown from the carry position without being lowered to the ground. Dropping the tools in the area of where the butt of the ladder will be once the ladder is in position will prevent you losing them in high grass situations. Keep in mind that the utilization of straps or clips to secure the tool would make this option a little more time consuming.

It is worth mentioning that this method works best with ladders that are stored on beam. This allows you to partially remove the ladder, place your tools on the inside of the beam, and then get your shoulder in position before taking on the weight of the ladder. Specifying your rig correctly also increases your fireground efficiency, but we’ll get into those specifics in a future post.


Even if this is not your choice of tools for your assignment, take the time to come up with the most efficient way to carry your tools. Keep in mind that having a free hand whenever possible gives you the most versatility for the unexpected situation or occasional need for a specific tool. We’d love to see (and show off) some of your tool carrying setups, email us at with some photos and details.


Strap That Can

In the hands of a well trained firefighter. The watercan can keep a tremendous amount of fire in check. But before the true effectiveness of the watercan can be achieved it has to be carried religiously. One of the easiest and most effective ways to ensure the watercan will be where it’s needed-when it needed is to modify it with a carrying strap.

Commercially made straps are the best option to make the can easier to carry. They typically come with an adjustable and removable shoulder strap. They also provide carrying handles along the side of the can for sliding the can while crawling.


A simple piece of webbing can also be used. The main problem with webbing is that it is non-adjustable and not easily removed or unclipped in an entanglement situation.

It’s always fun to raid the EMS supply room and piss-off the medics by taking a backboard strap and adapting it as a carry strap. This makes a cheap adjustable and removable strap. Seat belts can also be removed during the next junk yard extrication day and used in a similar fashion.

Our friend, Kyle A. Kosianowski from Sun Coast FOOLS sent us a picture of their can strap. They used an old set of bunker gear suspenders to make an adjustable carry strap.


One other difference worth mentioning from the homemade straps shown above is their attachment points. The webbing strap and backboard strap are secured to the can via a screw link and stainless steel hose clamp. The bunker gear strap is held on differently with split rings. Take a look at the bottom attachment point; certain styles of water cans have a visible collar exposed at the bottom. Two small holes can be drilled through the collar and a split ring or paracord can be fed trough to crate the attachment point. Obviously be cautious of where you drill into the can, we are not responsible for you missing the mark and creating a leaky can.


The commercially made strap is far superior to the homemade versions in many ways. Adjustability and multiple carry options are most notable. Even if the department wont provide the commercial straps, pitch in and buy it for yourselves, they are only about $30-$40.

Besides simply making it easier to carry, the most important aspect to using the water can is to train with it. Finding the most comfortable way to carry it while walking, and while crawling are certainly and individual preference. However, with some practice, it is even easy to perform a crawling search while having the can available to protect the search team if the need arises.

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Can Confidence- H.O.T. Class

VentEnterSearch will be spreading Can Confidence to the gulf coast of Florida for the Sun Coast FOOLS. Jimm and Eric will be teaching the Can confidence portion of a H.O.T. class in Englewood, (FL) on May 28th – 29th. This will be a two day class with the same delivery both days to accommodate shift schedules, space is limited so sign up fast.

sarasota can class flyer

This class is designed to build confidence on one of the most often neglected tools found on nearly every fire apparatus, the 2 1/2 gallon water extinguisher. The “Can” can be an extremely effective lifesaving tool by allowing a well-trained fireman to quickly apply water between fire and victims. Attendees will learn proper filling and pressurization steps, how to build homemade carrying straps and other useful “Can” modifications. The class will also cover valuable skills on carrying and searching with the “Can,” and confining fire with it as well. Students will cycle through a “force an interior door off its hinges” prop and use this door to hold back live fire and smoke. Finally, attendees will perform live fire attacks with nothing more than a “Can” and witness the effect of the “Can” on pre-flashover conditions.

The target audience for this class is firefighters and fire officers at any level with a desire to increase their confidence and learn how to properly utilize the water can.
Cost: $60


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Expose the Gap

In this video we demonstrate one way of gaining entry into an outward swinging double door. Before we get into the post we want to get something out of the way… Yes, we recognize this is a glass door and our plan “A” should simply be to take out the 6×8 inch glass, reach in and unlock the door. What if during your plan “A” efforts you reach in and realize the lock is keyed on the inside as well? This additional security measure is typical when glass is located near the lock. For the purpose of this post, we are simulating that plan “A” is not an option and we are going to force entry using conventional techniques.

One firefighter forces are not as difficult as they may seem. With a little practice, one man forcible entry is a very efficient use of man power on the fireground. With a quick size-up of the door in the video we notice it is an outward swinging double door with a slam latch married with a dead-bolt. With this particular occupancy being a hotel, we can strongly suspect some type of chain or bar latch towards eye level of the door (which can be easily defeated). Again, your plan “A” could be to take a glass panel, reach in and unlock the door, but we are moving on to plan “B”.

When dealing with outward swinging double doors we typically wouldn’t have any type of door stop, making it even easier for a one firefighter force. However, what we will typically find is some type of steel or aluminum strip placed over the space between the primary and secondary doors. If this piece (as shown in the video) can be removed, attack its connection points and force it off. If it’s part of the primary door then attempt to pry it away to expose the gap.

After we expose the gap, we can enlarge the gap with the use of an aluminum wedge or an axe. This makes setting the Halligan a lot easier for one firefighter to perform the force. Because this is an outward swinging double door we can simply drive the adze straight in without having to “steer” the Halligan around a door stop. Once the Halligan is set, it’s time to make the force, BE DYNAMIC! You are by yourself, remember force is multiplied the harder and faster you pry the Halligan! Like always get out and see what’s in your first due and train on real doors when you have the opportunity.

In this video we are using the ForceWedge from Daniel Troxell of TroxFire. The “ForceWedge” is a 5.5 inch by 1.5 inch high strength aluminum wedge that allows a firefighter to easily capture or wedge any gapping progress made during a forcible entry operation. Daniel is a solid brother that makes many other tools and forcible entry related props at a very affordable price. Check out his ForceWedge at

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Blocked Door



Seeing these signs on the rear of a commercial occupancy can tell you a few important things. The most obvious is that the door may actually be blocked. But how blocked is it? Is there an actual wall on the other side of the door? Is it fully blocked by high rack storage? Or is it just partially blocked by something less significant like a partial or rolling rack storage?


What else can this sign tell us? It more than likely indicates that one large business occupies multiple tenant build out spaces. When the building was designed they simply built a shell, with no particular tenant in mind. This is becoming a more popular construction method because it keeps the developers options open in regards to potential tenants.

As you can see from the Alpha side this is one large occupancy that occupies multiple tenant build out spaces.


On the Charlie side, you can see that three of the doors are blocked, leaving only one potentially clear. We say potentially because these rear storage areas are often overloaded and doors quickly become blocked with merchandise. This is particularly a problem during the holidays when stores are overstocking to keep up with demand.


When operating at the rear of a commercial occupancy it would be important to transmit this finding over the radio. It may help command appreciate the size of the occupancy if it not already obvious, and it may help interior crews understand that they may not have easily accessible secondary means of egress. From a RIT perspective, the RIT team should certainly make their way to the Charlie side to evaluate these doors themselves. Their presence may make the RIT team re-evaluate their potential rescue plan in case things go bad. Depending on time, and conditions, it may be worth forcing the door anyway to truly evaluate how blocked it is, and how it may be used to support operations.


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