BY RICK FRITZ
In 2008, I was “forced” into retirement by two strokes. At the time, I thought the fire service was deeply entrenched in the “back to basics” movement, which we had been teaching at the Fire Department Instructors Conference since the early 1990s. One leader in this movement, Andy Fredericks, was killed on 9/11, and we carried his message onward. “Back to the basics!” was our battle cry.
However, while attending our local community college’s basic fire academy, I overheard a cadet ask an instructor why there were notches in the wooden chocks in his helmet. Basics? What you carry in your pockets is Basics 101! As a result, I dug up some information on “back to the very basics.” I hope you find it useful.
Chocking doors is as vital to fire operations as water. Each door that the hoseline passes through must be chocked open. Reach up and take that wedge-shaped piece of wood, known as a door chock, out of its resting place on your helmet. Place the chock just above the center hinge of the door. Test the door by pulling on it, making sure it cannot close. Be prepared for rapid fire growth, since by chocking the door open, you have just let in a whole lot of air. But now the line can advance, the door won’t close on the line, and firefighters have ensured that they have an egress path, all with two cents worth of scrap wood!
Whether they’re in your pocket or on your helmet, wooden chocks can be lifesavers; every firefighter should carry several (photo 1). They tend to get left behind at fire operations, so you must constantly reload to ensure you have enough chocks available when you need them. Place them in the firehouse near the turnout gear racks and carry them on the apparatus. Many engine companies carry chocks in the preconnect hose folds. Ladder companies often carry extra chocks in the forcible-entry tool bag or attach them to the 2½-gallon fire extinguisher (“the can”) using a section of inner tube.
|(1) Photos courtesy of author.|
Door chocks can be either homemade (photo 2) or commercially manufactured. Manufactured chocks come in a wide assortment of materials but are mostly plastic giveaway gimmicks, and most of them don’t work well. Many cheaper chocks simply can’t take the rough handling they get on the fireground. For example, light metal “lollipop” chocks may crack and break from the weight of a door closing on it, fall out, or fly out across the room. The manufacturer of the lollipop chocks pictured in photos 3 and 4 is out of business.
The most inexpensive chocks are homemade wedges that can be easily cut from scrap wood. Although exact dimensions are not critical, an effective chock should be approximately four inches long and 1½ inches wide. Door chocks should be larger and more tapered than sprinkler wedges.
Putting a ¾-inch notch into your wooden door chock allows it to hold open heavy doors and doors equipped with automatic closers. Use a stone grinding wheel to make the notch (photos 5, 6).
NAILS AS CHOCKS
The concrete or cut nail is another commonly used chock that is easy to carry. Insert the nail between the door and door frame; this will keep the door from closing (photos 7, 8). Do not use them on a main entrance door or the door to the fire apartment because they will fall out if the door is slightly bumped. However, nails have often proved useful in chocking open bulkhead and stairway doors when you need to vent multiple floors.
RICK FRITZ served as a battalion chief with the High Point (NC) Fire Departme
nt until his medical retirement in 2008. A member of the fire service since 1977, he has served in a variety of fire service roles in volunteer and career departments. Fritz is the author of Tools of the Trade: Firefighting Hand Tools and Their Use (Fire Engineering, 1997) and is featured in the Tools of the Trade DVD Collection (Fire Engineering, 2001).
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