By JAMIE C. MORELOCK
The halligan bar has been, without question, the most versatile fire service hand tool for the past six decades and can perform a multitude of fireground tasks, including forcible entry, ventilation, and overhaul. One ventilation technique progressive firefighters use involves attaching the halligan bar to a rope and swinging it through windows from the roof or the floor above the fire for horizontal ventilation. To simplify this technique, most fire companies weld a chain link, called the “roof ring,” to the bar’s shaft (handle) where it meets the fork. This ring serves as the rope’s connection point and is an option from some manufacturers, but it is usually added by a skilled end-user.
Some drawbacks with many of these rings include their small size and light weight. The link’s small size works well with the snap clip once common on utility ropes, but it prevents a connection with the larger carabiners that most fire departments currently use. Second, when forcing entry in limited space, you sometimes need to drive in the fork end by striking the fork’s small corners (shoulders) where they meet the shaft. Most roof rings are not substantial enough to withstand hard strikes and will most likely deform in a manner where the striking tool will glance off, delaying entry or, even worse, causing a firefighter injury.
To counteract these two problems, replace the smaller links with a ½-inch type 43 chain link, which is large enough to accommodate most carabiners and is strong enough to withstand repeated blows from the heaviest striking tools.
INSTALLING THE RING
Before you install the ring, remove half of the link’s diameter on the welded side (photo 1). This will reduce the profile where the ring protrudes from the shaft and have no effect on the ring’s strength. Weld the ring to the bar on the same side as the pick; traditionally, the ring is installed on the pick’s opposite side. The theory was that the pick would strike the glass first when swung from the rope. In reality, during multiple tests, the halligan bars struck the windows in the same random pattern regardless of which side of the bar the ring was installed. More importantly, placing the ring on the pick side allows you to place the bar flat against a surface such as a wall or floor, which may be critical when you perform certain forcible entry techniques.
|(1) Photos by John Van Doren.|
|(2) The modern carabiner. Of the three links firefighters commonly use, the carabiner will not fit through the smallest link and must be forced through a midsized link.|
(3, 4) The finished tool.
Before you begin welding, check with the tool manufacturer to ensure you can weld the tool’s components. Some halligans are made of titanium, have hollow pipe handles, and use cast materials, which may require specific welding instructions. Also, thoroughly clean and prepare all of the components. I cannot stress enough the importance of a high-quality weld between the bar and the link. Only a skilled welder using the proper methods and techniques should perform this work. If your fire department lacks a qualified person or access to the right equipment, check with a local welding shop or trade school. Most are willing to help out their local fire department for little or no cost.
With this roof ring update, your carabiners will fit through a ring that won’t inhibit you from positioning the bar where you want it and will stand up to those powerful strikes of forcible entry tools without failing at a critical moment.
1. Fritz, Richard, Tools of the Trade: Firefighting Hand Tools and Their Use, Fire Engineering, 1997.
JAMIE C. MORELOCK is a 16-year fire service veteran and a firefighter with the Toledo (OH) Fire and Rescue Department. He previously served with the Fremont (OH) Fire Department. He is an Ohio-certified fire instructor and teaches several local, regional, and state programs. He is an FDIC H.O.T. instructor in the new Truck Essentials program and previously taught Truck Company Operations—Ground Ladders, and is an FDIC classroom lecturer. He is also an instructor for the New York-based Brotherhood Instructors, LLC.