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Setting Up Your Irons

In this post I’ll discuss the setup features of the irons carried at work. There are of course many different setups and modifications that can be done to this essential set of tools, and as many opinions on each. Of course ours isn’t the only way, but I’ll try to explain the thought process behind our setup… 

Different Jobs, Different Halligans...

 Some modifications are more well suited to certain tasks. If your company uses riding assignments, you can match up the right Halligan for the anticipated task. I talked about this idea in a previous post, here. Sometimes I feel like fireman sometimes adopt a concept (or modification) just because its the hot new thing and not because an evaluation of their job reveals it would be useful.

  

The Axe…

An 8lbs axe has been my personal striking tool of choice ever since I learned about using it as a wedge. As Dan Troxell, my captain and also a TT instructor says, the sledge is a “one-dimensional tool”. I have taken advantage of the axes versatility on both inward and outward doors, both in a team or alone ,and have never found myself wishing i had a sledgehammer.

This axe is 8lbs, the extra 2lbs over the standard 6 provides significant extra “oomph” without being unwieldy to carry. On the underside of the blade we have ground a few indentations to allow the Halligan to marry close. Keeping the handles of the axe and Halligan close makes for an easy grip. 

I do like having an extra grip made with some clothesline and lacrosse tape on the bottom 3rd of the axe handle. 

The Halligan… 

Starting at the forks, the tips of the forks are filed (not grinded) to a smooth thin curve. Many stock Halligans come with a small ridge on the beveled side of the tips. Many times I have seen that ridge catch on the leading edge of a door while forcing, effectively stopping progress. There is also a “set line” ground and marked with a dab of red paint. This is useful for judging the set depth, especially for newer members. Of course the fork’s shoulders have been flattened out to be available as a striking surface. 

On the shaft, you’ll see that we have a “grip” in the middle 3rd. While not my personal preference, I’m not the only one who uses this bar. I’m usually content with the natural octagonal grip provided by the forged design of a good Halligan. I see many Halligans that have grip top to bottom. To me that eliminates the ability to slide a striking tool down the shaft onto the shoulders. However it seems that having the grip in the middle third has been good compromise – it adds a little grip when venting a window or opening up and seems to stay out of the way of the shoulders. 

 

The head of the tool is kept clean and smooth. On the adz, the “blade” is kept thin – not like a knife, but free of ridges like we discussed on the fork tips. I would like to add a little width to the adz, maybe 1/2 inch (for extra leverage while gapping) but haven’t gotten around to it on this bar yet. The adz has a depth mark to help gauge when the adz has been set to the doorstop on an outward door, so that the door doesn’t get skinned by prematurely pulling out or down. 

Wrapping Up…

So thats a quick rundown of our setup and why, as I finish a morning cup of coffee after shift change. It is important that we know not only WHAT we have, but also WHY. There are many potential setups and modifications. Evaluate what each position does at a fire and what setup would be most beneficial. For example, when operating as the hook firefighter (basically our OVM) I carry a 6′ Halligan hook and a bar. We’ll make that setup the topic of a future post. 

So with that all said, whats your setup – AND WHY?

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Posted by | Posted in Blog, Combat Ready, Commentary, fire-rescue-topics, firefighting-operations, Tips & Skills, training-development, training-fire-rescue-topics, Truck Company | Posted on 01-02-2011

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Dangers of Aluminum Oxide Blades

Aluminum Oxide blades are the abrasive disc blades commonly carried on circular saws for cutting metal.  While these blades are common, there a number of disadvantages to these blades compared to diamond-tipped multi-purpose blades:

  • Aftermath of a blade to the face - thank God for safety glasses!

    The blades degrade over time and this is accelerated by the presence of hydrocarbons.  This is ironic, because the blades are stored on gas powered saws and are often stored in the compartment with spare fuel.

  • Under use, the blades quickly shrink in size.  This could require the blade to be changed out in the middle of a cutting operation.
  • As the blades shrink in size, cutting depth is lost.

Another danger with these blades is the possibility that the blade may fracture and bits of it go flying.  This happened to us at a recent forcible entry class with 2 aluminium oxide blades that appeared upon pre-use inspection to be flawless.  One of the blades was actually taken out of the box just before use.  While cutting on our lock tree, the blade without warning had a partial fracture of the cutting edge, sending pieces into the face of one our instructors.  Fortunately he was wearing safety glasses, but it still caused some abrasions to his face.

This blade partially disintegrated while cutting, throwing pieces in the face of a nearby instructor.

If you have these blades, be sure to inspect them regularly.  Any signs of deterioration such as fraying or discoloration should be cause for them to be replaced immediately.  Remember when cutting to wear appropriate protection and shield your face.  Also avoid torquing the saw side-to-side at all while cutting, as this may stress the blade and cause a fracture.

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Posted by | Posted in Blog, Commentary, fire-rescue-topics, firefighter-safety-health, firefighting-operations, training-development, training-fire-rescue-topics, Truck Company | Posted on 08-12-2010

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Test Your Hydra-Ram!

As many of you know, the hydra-ram is often not my first choice for forcible entry, but it’s definitely a frontline tool with purpose.  And like any mechanical tool, it’s prone to failure…  Last week at while teaching forcible entry at the training academy we had three separate failures of hydra-rams:

  1. One was a rupture of the body resulting in complete loss of hydraulic fluid.
  2. Another locked in the completely extended position
  3. And another would not stay open when pumped because the valve was broken.

The take home point is:  WE HAVE TO TEST OUR TOOLS BEFORE WE GET TO THE FIRE DOOR.  The hydra-ram is one of the tools that needs to be checked daily on the rig, but many problems with hydra-rams are not discovered until the tool is placed under load.  A simple way to test the tool is to find something heavy around the firehouse and put the ram to the test! In this example, I simply used our dumpster out back.  The tool is pumped to full extension, lifting the load, and left to sit for a minute to insure all’s well – then released.  Should any problems arise, we can get a replacement or fix the tool before it’s needed on a job.

These failures should also further remind us of the importance of maintaining your forcible entry skills with the irons – both 1 and 2 firefighter techniques.  Remember – when the door is locked, no interior operations can begin till it’s opened… Everyone’s counting on you, be prepared.

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Posted by | Posted in Blog, Combat Ready, fire-rescue-topics, firefighting-operations, Tips & Skills, training-development, training-fire-rescue-topics, Truck Company | Posted on 07-08-2010

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Enrollment open for Forcible Entry Academy in Claymont, DE – June 5!

8-hours of high-intensity, hands-on, real-world forcible entry skills!

DSC04350Searching for victims, getting a line on a fire – all require that we first get inside!  Join our experienced instructors for 8-hours of essential information for getting YOU though the door.  Firefighters must practice forcible entry to polish their technique.  Each attendee will force doors MULTIPLE times to gain this needed experience using their existing and newly acquired skills.

This 8-hour hands-on program is highly-interactive and dynamic, focusing on giving you multiple options – using different tools, techniques, with or without a partner. Never find yourself out of ideas at the door again!

Saturday, June 5, 2010 – Claymont, DE.  Enrollment is limited! See below for more information...

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Posted by | Posted in Blog, Combat Ready, Company News, fire-rescue-topics, news, Tips & Skills, Training Resources, training-development, training-fire-rescue-topics, Truck Company | Posted on 08-04-2010

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Forcible Entry Academy in Fort Washington, PA

This past Saturday, January 20, Traditions Training staff traveled back to Philadelphia for a “Forcible Entry Academy” program with the Fort Washington Fire Company.  This 8-hour program was entirely hands on and allowed students to practice numerous forcible entry skills through out the day.

Students cut actual roll-down gates.  For added realism we even "tagged" them.

Students cut actual roll-down gates. For added realism we even "tagged" them.

Some of the skills included were:

  • 1 and 2 firefighter techniques for conventional FE.
  • Roll-down security gates.
  • HUD Windows.
  • Window bars & gates.
  • Thru-the-lock techniques.
  • High-security padlocks.
  • Size-up and tool selection.

A primary focus of the day was the capabilities of various hand tools and the importance of having multiple techniques and plans for attack.  With forcible entry you cannot always rely on “plan A” – when it doesn’t work out the way you hoped, your next move better be on deck!

Using a variety of real-world props, each student got the chance to put their hands on the tools and transfer their “theory” on how they might attack and obstacle into actual “experience” with a variety of new skills and techniques.  Each student was encouraged not only to try “our” ideas, but to take the opportunity to try new ideas and techniques – training is the time to experiment with these things, not the front door of the fire building.

It was another excellent day for instructors and students, as both walked away with some new experiences and skills.  Thanks to DFC Clauson of the Ft. Washington Fire Company for setting up another excellent training opportunity!

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Click here for some more photos!

To learn more about how you can host or attend this or other Traditions Training classes – click here to contact us!

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Posted by | Posted in Blog, Company News, fire-rescue-topics, firefighting-operations, news, training-development, training-fire-rescue-topics, Truck Company | Posted on 23-02-2010

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Taking Care of your Nozzles

119246_orig“How often do you check your last line of defense?”

Most departments have standards on when to check SCBA, saws, apparatus, etc.  But how much attention is paid to our nozzles?  Remember – the nozzle is what ultimately completes our mission: putting the fire out!

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Posted by | Posted in Blog, Combat Ready, Engine Company, fire-rescue-topics, firefighter-safety-health, firefighting-operations, Tips & Skills, training-development, training-fire-rescue-topics, vehicle-operations-apparatus | Posted on 22-01-2010

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Adding a Key-Tool to your Channel Locks

522154177_KfZNi-O.jpgA popular tool in firefighter’s pockets is a pair of Channel Locks, useful for a variety of things – turing off gas, water, etc.  They are also useful for removing certain lock cylinders, one such lock is an Adams-Rite lock, found on many storefronts.  But, once we remove the cylinder, we still have to unlock the lock.

Below… I’ll show you how to easily transform the handles of your Channel Lock Pliers into a Key-Tool that can be used to unlock Adams-Rite, and other type locks.

18644_1314264863142_1426305763_857449_8138088_n photo

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Posted by | Posted in Blog, fire-rescue-topics, firefighting-operations, Tips & Skills, Training Resources, Truck Company | Posted on 12-01-2010

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Pistol grips are made for one thing… Pistols

6a010534b1b78f970c011570190563970b-800wi-1.jpgI don’t think any trade journal, instructional manual, or firefighter in the Country would disagree….the key to putting out fires relies heavily upon the selection, deployment and operation of the initial hoseline.   How many times have we heard the late Andrew Frederick’s quote used, “If you put the fire out, you won’t have to jump out the window” in the course of general firehouse conversation.  Yet, as a collective Fire Service we occasionally still screw this up.  Miscues with the first hoseline do not occur in just one particular phase (selection, deployment or operation), rather there seems to be a random sampling in each. (more…)

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Posted by | Posted in Blog, Combat Ready, Engine Company, fire-rescue-topics, firefighting-operations, fires, Tips & Skills, training-development, training-fire-rescue-topics | Posted on 09-01-2010

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The Vulcan Hook

The Vulcan Hook is named for Lt. Pete Lund of FDNY R-2 who was affectionately called “Lt Vulcan” (after the mythical god of fire). Pete was the founder of Traditions Training and died in the line of duty in 2005.

The Vulcan Hook is one of several useful tool modifications to come out of the workshop of Rescue 2. Essentially it is a Halligan Hook with the pry end replaced by the fork from a Halligan bar. The result is a heavier tool with increased versatility and leverage.

It’s uses are limited only by your creativity. Personally I have had great success with the Vulcan Hook in opening flat roofs, where the leverage of the fork is great in opening built-up roofs after a cut. It is also quite handy in prying security bars off of windows.

This simple tool modification should remind us that almost every tool on our rigs was created by a FIREMAN out of experience, and that the next great tool could perhaps come out of YOUR head. Don’t be afraid to experiment, and when you find that next great thing – share it!

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Posted by | Posted in Blog, Tips & Skills, Truck Company | Posted on 08-12-2009

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Pro's & Con's of Depth Guards…

IMG_0637Depth guards have become a common addition to fire service chainsaws.  Their primary purpose is to prevent a firefighter from cutting too deeply and through roof joists.  In an ideal situation, the firefighter makes a quick plunge cut to set the depth of the guard to cut only the roofing material and planking.  He can then perform the remainder of the cut without having to worry about cutting the joists… So ends theory.

So is this the solution to our problems?  What are the pro’s & con’s of “depth guards”?  Do you use them, and if so what have been you’re experiences?

Read on for a few thoughts…

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Posted by | Posted in Blog, Tips & Skills, Truck Company | Posted on 04-12-2009