Firefighter Training Drill: Reverse Hold of Pike Pole or Roof Hook

Mark van der Feyst reviews a simple tool tip to make opening up a ceiling more efficient.

When conducting roof ventilation operations, losing tools on the roof only makes the task much harder to accomplish. Tools can be lost if they fall off the roof or fall into the fire. Firefighter fatigue will sometimes lead to tools being lost to the fire when a member’s grip slips off the pike pole or the roof hook when trying to punch through the ceiling below.

As a result, some fire departments will apply adhesive grip tape on pike poles or wrap tape in a grip like configuration around the handle of the roof hook to provide better gripping of the hand tool.


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The pike pole and roof hook are designed with piercing points to allow for easier penetration into ceiling members such as drywall when overhauling. This piercing tip works well for punching into from below the ceiling as the direction of the pole is being pushed upward. When trying to punch through the ceiling from above on the roof, the sharp tip will not aid as much. Sometimes the sharp piercing point will get stuck in the wood members of the attic making the job much more fatiguing.

Instead reverse the pike pole or roof hook so that the blunt end of the pole will be used to punch through the ceiling. The piercing hook point at the top end will provide the firefighter with more of a handle to hold onto preventing slippage from fatigue or other reasons. Both hands can be used to hold the reversed pike pole with one hand under the hook and the other hand covering the piecing point. 

The blunt or round end of the pike pole will provide a larger surface area to punch through the drywall below as opposed to the sharp point. On the roof hook, the same can be done – the bottom end that contains a gas shut-off wrench can be used to punch through.

Caution must be exercised here as the piercing point will be facing up towards you when punching through the ceiling. Be aware of your face positioning when pushing the pike pole down and up to punch through the ceiling.

We’ll work through these considerations in this month’s firefighter training drill.

Equipment needed: Roof prop with ceiling material below or access to an acquired structure, pike pole and/or roof hook, roof ladder, and extension ladder. If using an acquired structure, tools for vertical ventilation will be needed.

Goal: To practice using the pike pole in a reverse manner for punching through the ceiling below.

Drill: Set up the roof for vertical vent operations with the ground ladder (if applicable) and roof ladder.

  1. Run through the department’s operations for vertical ventilation
  2. When it comes time to punch the ceiling down below, try using the pike pole in the reverse manner, holding the piecing end in firefighter’s hands.
  3. To compare effectiveness, use the pike pole in the traditional manner with the piercing end going through the ceiling material.
  4. If no roof prop is available, use a wall breach prop and screw a sheet of drywall to one side to duplicate a ceiling.
  5. On the other exposed side, punch through the wall (ceiling) with the pike pole in the reverse manner. Repeat step 4

Key points:

  1. Maintain a firm grip on the piercing side of the pike pole.
  2. Be careful when it comes to the position of your face when punching through the material below.

Mark van der FeystMark van der Feyst has been in the fire service since 1999 and is a firefighter with the Fort Gratiot (MI) Fire Department. He is an international instructor teaching in Canada, the United States, and India, and at FDIC. He is also the lead author of Residential Fire Rescue (Fire Engineering Books & Video). He can be contacted at





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