Faux Dormers

Are dormers a prevalent component of building construction in your area? If they are, are they real dormers or faux-dormers? Knowing the answer to this question is critical because they act very differently during fire situations and have totally different tactical priorities.


The presence of real dormers indicates a potentially occupied area of the structure. This area absolutely needs to be searched for potential victims. This upper floor of the structure will typically contain bedrooms, which should be very high on your search priority list. The other question that needs to be answered in this scenario is whether or not the structure is balloon frame construction as well. That certainly adds to the need to search this area immediately with an effort to open it up looking for fire that has traveled to the top floor. Finally, real dormers frequently have knee walls that can hide a tremendous amount of fire that can catch us off guard if we are not extremely familiar with the intricacies of this construction style.


Faux dormers have a totally different set of tactical concerns. Faux dormers are installed on homes to make the roof line more “interesting” and make the house look more grand. Frequently these faux dormers are built on top of the actual roof and have sheeting underneath and don’t even open into the actual attic space.


Know your area! Take the time to look around and be familiar with the construction styles found in your first due. Look for the tell tale signs of real dormers: steep roof pitch and windows in the gable ends. Smoke issuing from a real dormer potentially indicates a fire in an occupied area of the building that typically contains bedrooms. This situation requires an immediate search for life. Smoke issuing from a faux dormer potentially indicates an fire in an unoccupied area of the structure, the attic. This presents a much different situation, but it requires an immediate search for fire.


Building construction can have a dramatic impact on fire and smoke travel in a structure. We must know how two things that look so similar can behave so differently during fire conditions.

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Hook & Irons Collaboration

We are very excited to release our newest T-shirt design. This design is a collaboration with Hook and Irons Co.

Hook and Irons Co. is a firefighter owned apparel company devoted to celebrating the traditions and the history of the fire service. Their designs truly reflect all of the beauty and history of our job that result in items that we should all be proud to wear and own. We are truly humbled to have the opportunity to work on this awesome design with them. When talking about the shirt we decided to create a design that was simple and original–a badge for those who believe seconds make a difference.

The VES shirt was hand drawn, then hand painted with water color to create a faded, weathered look that can’t be duplicated using digital processes. The screen print for the shirt was created using that same water color painting. The design is printed on a lightweight tri-blend antique navy shirt.

The shirt is fitted. If you are in between two sizes, order one up.


Thank you for your continued support!

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Homemade J-Tool

“Ferg” from Sacramento City (CA) Truck 2 sent in this awesome idea on how to create a simple J-tool for non-destructive forcible entry. It even gets some bonus points for being “green” since it almost counts as recycling or reusing. This idea utilizes the leftover political signs that can be found in every dumpster this time of year. The two most common types of signs have an “H” shape, and a “U” shaped galvanized wire frame. The easiest to use for this purpose are the U shape since it already has one of the required bends, but an H shaped one can also be utilized with some additional work.


Rather than throwing that “U” shaped one in the trash, tear the sign off, and take that frame over to the workbench. Place the frame in the vice, and begin bending it into shape. Before you commit to the exact size, you may want to consider what will fit in your bunker pant pocket. Use a hacksaw or saws-all to cut the excess material off. You may even want to file the edges down to make it real pro, your gear quartermaster will thank you….

homemadejtool3 homemadejtool4

The completed tool will look like the photo below. For the discussion, we will consider the side with the extra bend the “working end.” This tool is designed for use on a double door with panic hardware. For the traditional panic bar style, you use the working end to “hook” the bar of the locking device. It simply opens by pulling the bar toward you.


Rotating the tool into place and placing the working end on the locking mechanism can also be used to manipulate the push pad style of panic hardware. Again, once the tool is in place, pulling on the tool will simulate someone pushing the pad from the inside and open the door.


A wood wedge makes a nice companion for the tool to widen the gap between some doors, or even just to keep the weather striping out of your way. While you’re out hunting for signs, keep the rest of the crew in mind. Make enough for everyone, and throw a few extras on the rig for good measure.


Like with many other non-destructive methods of forcible entry, this probably won’t be your go-to method on a working fire. However, options like this can simplify your life when chasing down sell-of-smoke type calls, and automatic fire alarm activations. With some practice, you’d be surprised how many different types of locking mechanisms can be manipulated and defeated with this tool. You simply need to take the time to Identify and Visualize what you are trying to defeat, and outsmart the locking mechanism.


Keyless Garage Door Entry

Often times we find ourselves needing to make access into a home in a quick yet non-destructive manner. This may be for well-being checks or public assist type calls. Most non-destructive methods of forcible entry simply require some creativity and a little knowledge of how a variety of different doors and locks are secured. This technique is no different, but involves a door we typically don’t take the time to defeat, the garage door.

In this video we demonstrate how to use the Keyless Garage Door Entry Tool to manipulate the emergency release rope on the automatic garage doors. This release rope is typically installed to allow the homeowner to open the door manually during a loss of power. Once we visualize how it works and know where to find it, it may be a viable option for non-destructive entry.

The tool is inserted into the gap at the top of the garage door and maneuvered into place to grab the emergency release rope. While keeping tension on the release rope, the garage door can simply be manually raised from the outside.

The one potential flaw in this method of forcible entry is if the door leading from the garage into the house is locked. Even if that is the case, and you end up having to use a traditional through the lock technique on it, once the call is over the garage door can be lowered and home can be secured.

With a little practice you can become quite proficient in using this non-destructive “forcible entry” technique.


Truck Company Operations

Join Jimm Walsh in Dublin, OH on November 13th for a full-day motivational and informative Truck Company presentation titled Truck Company Operations. This class includes portions of Jimm’s popular Truck Company programs Aggressive Truck Functions for a Safer Fireground, and Vent-Enter-Search. The class will cover the importance of aggressive truck functions and their positive impact on fireground safety and why VES is actually the safest most effective way to search. Click here to download the flyer.

Please contact us at staff@vententersearch.com if you would like additional information about bringing one of our classes to your location.

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Hook and Irons Company


Here are a few photos from a recent prop building day for the VES crew. The props are simple interior door-off-the-hinges simulators for our upcoming can confidence class. As much as we could talk about the props, they are actually quite simple and we’ll more than likely do a full write up on them in the future.


What this post is really about are those awesome shirts we are wearing. Those happen to be the “Keys to the City” shirts from Hook and Irons Co . Hook and Irons is run by a couple of solid dudes who happen to be fellow Floridians. Their designs truly reflect the beauty and history of our job. They only utilize high quality materials, and they feature awesome designs that typically have an actual story behind them. Check out their site and click on the descriptions of each of their shirts to read the stories behind the designs. Be sure to check out the designs tilted The Last Great Fire and Aerial Patent to see some of the back story we are talking about. Besides the quality of materials, and the stories, the coolest part about their products is how subtle the designs are. A fellow fireman would certainly recognize the design, but it doesn’t scream “HEY LOOK AT ME I’M A FIREMAN.”

Be sure to check them out and let them know how awesome their designs are. Maybe we can talk them into a working up a VES design?


Gas Leak: Grab n’ Goes

Every community is different in regards to their natural gas line infrastructure. Some departments have a large number of gas leaks and as a result have become very capable of handling the leaks prior to the arrival of the gas company.


Here is a quick and easy way of organizing your gas leak equipment. Its makes sizing up and grabbing the appropriate sized equipment a breeze. As you know from previous post here on VES we are all about organizing and carrying your equipment in the most efficient manner possible. Reducing the number of times we have to run back to the rig for more equipment during incidents has become somewhat of an art.

These Grab n’ Goes are made up of small sections of poly gas pipe. The diameter of the pipe is written on the pipe for easy identification. This helps make sure that everyone is communicating the correct size pipe when calling for additional equipment. The pipe section simply has wooden wedges inserted into the end, and a band clamp around the circumference. Besides just making the wedges and band clamps easier to carry, the Grab n’ Go can also be used to “size-up” the pipe size as shown in the photo below.



The information included in this post is only applicable to departments that are adequately trained and operate aggressively on natural gas leaks. The information contained in this post is purely supplemental, and should not be applied without appropriate training for responding to natural gas emergencies.

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Can Confidence – H.O.T. Class

Can Confidence Class 4

VentEnterSearch’s own Eric Wheaton and Jimm Walsh will be teaching a H.O.T. class titled Can Confidence on October 11th, 2014 at the Florida State Fire College located in Ocala, (FL.) 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.

Time: 9:00am or 1:00pm

Cost: $30

Click Here to Register




Slide Bolts

Lt Tim Shaw from Westerville (OH) E112 sent in this door they recently found during a fire inspection. As you can see from the photo below, no indication of supplemental locks is obvious from the outside. We can tell that it is a metal door in a metal frame, but what is not so obvious is that it’s actually a masonry wall covered with wood siding.


The photo below clearly shows the supplemental locks once the door is opened. This particular set-up is the weaker version of slide bolt lock installation. These slide bolts are only surface screwed to the door. The “proper” way to install these slide bolts would be to drill all the way through the door, and to use large washers on the outside. This would prevent the bolts that secure the lock from easily being pulled through the door during the force. You may also notice that the hinge side slide bolts are still in the out position. These slide bolts do not have to be retracted in order for the door to be opened. They are only there to prevent/delay the door from being defeated from the hinge side.



Like most forcible entry scenarios, a well trained crew with a set of irons can make quick work of this door. With no visible indications of supplemental locks, a traditional force near the standard lock would be the most appropriate first action. Once the resistance if felt/noticed from the supplemental locks, its time to go to plan B. Simply changing the location of the irons to closer to the slide bolts and forcing traditionally would work just fine. Essentially the door will have to be forced in three locations. middle, top, and bottom. Going in the order mentioned (middle, top, bottom) would be the best choice. Middle first because until you do that, you wouldn’t even know the slide bolts were installed. Top would be next, because you are more fresh, have more energy, and are less likely to be obscured by smoke if you started low. Bottom would be last simply because its the easiest. Since these slide bolts are only surface mounted, they should pull out just fine.

This type of supplemental lock is typically found on the rear door of a commercial occupancy. Forcing the rear door on a commercial occupancy should be a high priority on a working fireground. Forcing the door early and re-closing after the locks have been defeated is an essential task. Obviously re-closing the door is suggested as to not contribute to flow path issues and negatively impact fire spread. Predict that interior crews will eventually needed this door open to supplement fire suppression efforts, or unfortunately for emergency egress. Forcing this door early, before it is actually needed will save us precious time later in the operation.

We will have a follow up post with a video on defeating this type of slide bolt supplemental lock in the near future. In the video we’ll share a more detailed explanation and share some additional tips on defeating them.


Outboard Saw Conversion

The rotary saw equipped with a metal cutting blade is an extremely important tool for us to have in our forcible entry cache. There are a handful of modifications and conversions that we can apply to the saw to make it preform more efficient. The outboard saw conversion is one of the simplest and most effective modifications to make the saw a more versatile forcible entry tool. The outboard saw conversion involves moving the saw blade assembly to the right (or outboard) side of the saw body.


Have you ever tried cutting hinges on a outward opening metal door? Have you ever encountered a frameless glass door with a mortise lock that secures into the floor? The rotary saw is certainly a viable option for both of these situations. When utilizing a non-modified (stock) saw, it is difficult to line the saw blade perfectly perpendicular to a hinge or floor lock that is being defeated. As a result, the blade ends up cutting at an angle and tends to more likely bind up. The outboard saw conversion puts the blade flush with the saw’s body, allowing it to cut easy in tight places saving time and energy. Another situation where it may be beneficial to have an outboard saw is when cutting locks in recessed doorways.

If you have more then one metal cutting rotary saw on the rig, you should consider applying the outboard conversion to one of them. The conversion is still a viable option even if you only carry one metal cutting saw on your rig. The outboard saw gives us versatility while not compromising any other functions. The outboard saw still operates the same as a stock saw. There is however a noticeable change in how the saw “feels” to the operator since changing the location of the blade effects the gyroscopic effect on the saw. It is important to make sure everyone has operated the saw in a training setting before using it on an actual emergency run.

The photos below show the benefit when cutting a hinge with an outboard saw. The first photo shows an unmodified saw, and the second shows the outboard saw. You can clearly see how the outboard saw cuts the hinge at a better, more perpendicular angle.



The next photos show how the outboard saw cuts the floor lock. The first photo shows an unmodified saw, and the second shows the outboard saw. Again, you can clearly see how the outboard saw cuts the lock at a better, more perpendicular angle.



The outboard conversion can be accomplished with just a few quick and easy steps. All you need is the scrench that came with your saw, or a flat-head screwdriver and ratchet. Click here to download a complete step-by-step guide to perform the outboard saw conversion in PDF format.


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