HOW BASIC CAN YOU GET? HOW ABOUT HAND TOOLS FOR TRUCK WORK?
How’s that for a title? You know my motto: “Let’s get back to basics before their absence kills us!”
To talk about truck work and the tools you need to accomplish it, I have to begin with one of my pet peeves—the one-tool firefighter. I hope this guy has gone the way of the ratchet door opener, the punch and chisel, the six-pound axe, and the like. There is no scenario in which on arrival you can choose one tool from the assortment and be productive and accomplish your goals for the entire firefighting operation, As a matter of fact, in the old days I used to tell my people, “If I catch you with one tool, you work for someone else.”
Choose your tools based on two things: assignment (truck ftinction) and size-up. What do I mean? Simple!
Carry a prying tool and a striking tool, usually a halligan and an axe. These two should be “married” and carried in one location adjacent to the riding position of the forcible entry firefighter. I’ve seen many trucks on which the tools in this set are located remote from one another. I know you can’t force a door by prying all alone, but the person you pick (remember, we respond with “not enough” people now) to assist in striking may not be carrying an axe Besides, the game here is to never lose productivity or effectiveness for lack of a tool—that includes during the overhauling stage.
Roof (vertical ventilation). A halligan is a must—but what else do you need? Well, 1 like to divide my combustible structure fires into two groups—those on the top floor and those that aren’t on the top floor In either case, you are going to open all vertical arteries on a fire roofskylights. scuttles, bulkhead doors, ventilation louvers—anything that will relieve conditions below.
With the roof open, what do you do next? Well, at fires not on the top floor, you should plan to search all floors between the roof and the fire floor. You can do that by fire escape, if one is present. At the very least, you will have as a goal joining your team on the fire floor or the floor above it. Ceilings will have to be pulled, walls opened, windows and doors trimmed, flooring cut and removed, search areas probed. In this case, you also should carry a six-foot hook (preferably a “halligan-type”).
Top-floor fires are another matter. The roof person or team will never finish work before the overhauling stage. Everything must be opened first, and you must be prepared to cut. Take the halligan and, if you have the luxury of having another person with you, bring the saw’ and an eight-pound axe, if you need them. While you are waiting, you still can begin an effective primary ventilation hole with the axe (remember?).
Outside tent, enter, and search function. If you’re working by ladder to a window’, take a halligan and a hook with you—a halligan for breaking or prying your way in and a h(x>k for probing, depending on conditions. Besides, if you take the axe, what do you plan to cut? If you’re lucky enough to have a fire escape to w’ork from, how do you get the drop ladder or the counterbalanced staircase down?
If you are using a portable ladder, where do you drop your tools while you’re selecting and placing the ladder? Drop them below the objective and return for the ladder! It’s the only way to ensure that you’ll have the tools in your hand when you ascend.
Now, let’s play with the tools. What can you do with them? I’m not going to get so basic as to reiterate Essentials 200. What are some of the timesavers or. better, what will prevent you from suffering sprains, strains, and other injuries? What will keep the tools from breaking?
First, breaking. Never pry strongly with an axe or a wooden-handled hook. It was bad enough when hook handles were made of ash and axe handles were made of hickory—but the way things break now. they might as well be made of balsa wood.
Now, the timesavers. Everyone knows the primary purpose of hooks is for opening ceilings overhead—but how? There are tricks to making a purchase in the material and pulling, depending on the type of ceiling.
You cannot stand around, frustrated, trying to push the hook head in time and time again until you get through the ceiling material. We are not interior decorators! To make a purchase, lay the head on the floor, look around, and then throw the head toward the ceiling material (holding the handle, of course). Ninetynine percent of the time, you’ll be up and in with one swing.
Now that you’re in there, w-hat next? With lath and plaster ceilings, work in one direction along the beam line location. You’re wasting effort if you continue to pull in the space between the beams—the lath is too resilient. Pull along the beam, and the lath will break easily. The trick to beating exhaustion is not to pull so hard that the head leaves the void. Trying to “re-find” the hole saps arm and shoulder strength in short order. The secret is to use short, hammer-like motions.
If you’re dealing with tin-clad ceilings, start at the cove molding shape along the wall. The cove trim is the easiest to remove and will provide your first opening. Forget the tin and look for the firing strips—usually 18 inches to two feet on center. Hammer at these until they come loose. I have seen the additional weight of hanging tin sections pull the entire ceiling down for you—but you have to know what you’re doing.
Plasterboard is another stor>’—a mess. You get one hook hole going up and one more coming down. The secret is to use a larger, flatter pulling surface, such as that on a trash hook, the adz of a halligan, one of the new plasterboard pull-down hooks, or, best, a simple, lightweight garden hoe! Again, simple, short, hammer-like motions. More next time.