POP THE HOOD
Vehicle fires pose many problems that can endanger lives and make the firefight very difficult. One such problem involves opening the hood.
Vehicle design is constantly changing, and the hood latch is a design innovation that can hamper operations. The latch is operated from inside the vehicle by a cable. In a wellinvolved vehicle fire or a working engine-compartment fire, the springs attached to the hood that make it pop open when the latch is released usually weaken from the heat and do not operate. Also, the cable from the passenger compartment to the latch is either completely burned off or weakened so that it breaks with the slightest pull. When that cable becomes inoperable, the task of opening the hood becomes quite difficult. Most firefighters agree that there are very few quick and easy methods of opening the hood.
Our department has devised a method for overcoming this obstacle that has been extremely effective for us. As with any firefighting procedures, there are some inherent dangers, but proper training and precautions lessen them.
When power hydraulic tools became available for vehicle extrication, our manual hydraulic tool was reduced to backup status. Our idea is to leave the large spreaders that were supplied with our manual unit hooked together in an engine compartment. When the hood of the vehicle on fire cannot be opened by conventional methods, the manual unit is the solution. It is simpler and quicker to use the manual hydraulic pump than to remove, set up, and start the large generator.
We use the tool usually either after much of the fire has been knocked down and the front of the vehicle has been cooled to prevent the bumper from coming off or when it is necessary to get into the engine compartment. One firefighter takes the spreader and puts it in the hood gap as close to the latch as possible. (Vehicles with the hood gap on top may require a halligan tool to open the gap for the spreader.) Then he pumps the ram to open the gap just enough to get a better “bite.” The spreaders are then closed and repositioned next to the latch on top of the radiator support and are spread apart again. Sometimes more than one “bite” is necessary. When the spreaders are positioned next to the latch and spreadapart, the hood will be opened. The same method is used for hoods that open from other positions. The key tc this procedure is to get the spreaders. next to the latch wherever it is located.
(Photos by author.)
POP THE HOOD
The ideal situation involves a fourperson engine company, because it enables you to have a pump operator, a firefighter with a charged line, and a firefighter positioning the spreaders while the fourth operates the manual pump. Other setups can be worked out for fewer people, but they are not as safe.
There are two drawbacks to this., procedure. The first is the threat to safety. For this procedure to work successfully, firefighters must be positioned directly in front of and in close proximity to the bumper. Therefore, to lessen the danger, the area aroundi the bumper mounts should be cooled before anyone gets in front of the vehicle. The second drawback is the amount of damage the vehicle sustains. The spreaders do considerable damage to the vehicle hood, cowl area, and hood latch. However, if there is enough fire to weaken the springs and burn off the cable, there is considerable damage to the vehicle anyway. In most instances, the hood has to be replaced because of the fire even if the vehicle is not a total loss to the insurance company.
We have tried other methods, such as bending back the corners and working with other tools. So far, this method has proven to be the most effective.