Window Bars & the Set of Irons

Mostly found in urban areas but not uncommon in suburban or rural areas are window bars. These bars are common to private dwellings and often found on basement and first floor windows for security reasons.  

These bars present a multitude of problems for firefighters responding to calls at these locations. 

1. Delay in access to inside the structure.

2. Difficult to perform VEIS (Vent. Enter. Isolate. Search) 

3. Reduces means of egress for firefighters and victim removal should a window need to be used. 

Window bars have the tendency to turn room and content fires into multiple alarm fires and have created havoc for access to victims or down firefighters for reasons mentioned above; so for that reason lets discuss how to remove them quickly and efficiently using the set of irons. 

On type 3 brick buildings the bars are held in by expandable anchors. Holes are first drilled into the brick and the anchors are used to hold the bars in place around the window.

For wood frame structures (type 5) lag screws are usually used to hold the bars in place. 

For either structure, use the set of irons (axe & halligan) and destroy the screws and anchors holding the bars in place by forcing them with the adz end of the halligan driving the halligan with the butt (non blade side) of the axe. 

Should the fastening points be unattainable, split the frame using the halligan and pry the gate from the opening using the fork side of the halligan. 

If the bars are set into the brick, mortar or concrete use a sledge or any type of mauling tool and smash the area encasing the bars into the wall and pry the bars away from the window. Should it be out of reach, hooks are another tool we can use for prying away as well.

Don't let obstacles get in the way of protecting life and property. This was a couple ways we can gain entry to a building should we only have hand tools available to us. Relying heavily on gas and hydraulic tools can be costly and some times cause more damage than it's worth. The more efficient we are using hand tools the quicker we can get to work and get the job done. 


Until next time; work hard, stay safe and live inspired. 

About the Author

NICHOLAS J. HIGGINS is a firefighter with 15 years in the service all within departments in Piscataway, NJ. Nick has held the ranks of Lieutenant and Captain as well as being a township elected District Fire Commissioner for 1 term (3 years) in Piscataway, NJ. He is also a NJ State certified level 2 fire instructor. He holds a B.S. in Accounting from Kean University working in Corporate Taxation and is the founder/contributor of the Firehouse Tribune website.