Training Notebook ❘ By PAUL SUEDKAMP
Of all the doors firefighters most commonly encounter, one of the most difficult to force is an outward swinging metal door within a metal door frame (photo 1). These doors are found mainly set into the exterior concrete walls of multifamily residences and commercial or industrial properties.
After one particularly frustrating encounter with a door of this type and as a lone exterior member of a truck company, I started to think of a better way of attacking these doors solo. If you are ever alone in zero visibility or confronted with physical obstacles preventing the help of a second member, following is a trick I devised that I call “Paul’s Way” to force such a door. You can perform this technique using a married pair (i.e., a halligan bar and a flathead ax) that uses the flat side of an ax head that is wedge shaped.
To begin, place the bottom of the ax handle approximately one to 1½ feet from the face of the door and lean the blade of the ax head (wedge) into the crease between the door and the door jamb (photos 2, 3). Next, kneel at a 90° angle to the door while facing the ax, placing your foot farthest from the door face on the outside of the ax handle to brace it. Depending on the heat and visibility conditions, tuck the fork end of the halligan bar under the arm farthest from the door face if you are kneeling, or anchor it to your same side hip if you are standing (photos 4, 5). Place your opposite hand (closest to the door) on the top of the ax head to hold it steady (photo 6).
Use the flat striking surface of the halligan bar opposite the pike or adz to strike the flathead surface of the ax, driving the wedge into the crease between the door and the door jamb. This will create a gap between the door and the door jamb in which you can place the adz end of your halligan tool and force the door (photo 7). Because of the hand placement—one on top of the ax and the other close to the striking surface on the halligan—as well as your awareness of your hand positions relative to one another, you can perform this technique in the dark with a high degree of safety.
Get out to your training grounds, try out Paul’s Way, and add it to your toolbox!
Author’s note: Special thanks to Iowa City (IA) Fire Department Firefighter Josh Wutke for his demonstrations in the photos.
PAUL SUEDKAMP is a firefighter with the Iowa City (IA) Fire Department assigned to Truck 1’s Shift A.