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. 

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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.

Bulkhead Doors

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Some stairs in a bulkhead doors are sloped greater than normal sloped stairways thus causing increasing issues for crews to make entry due to its steeper incline should entry be warranted through such doors. On the other hand, these doors make great use for ventilation sources for below grade fires due to its easier and for the most part safer access when fighting below grade fires. They can be found in both resident and commercial structures.

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.

Fire Fact #2: The 2 1/2" Line: A Mainstay of the American Fire Service

The 2 ½” hose line has been in the fire service for decades. This is especially true for urban fire departments with big fires (large factories, high-rise office buildings and crowded residential neighborhoods) and abundance of manpower. Although some departments had retired the use of the 2 ½” the New York City Fire Department required it for all structural firefighting up until the late 1960s. During the 1960s and 1970s the country was hit with a financial crisis leading departments to abandon the use and also questioned the usefulness of the hose and began downsizing to small hose lines for heavy fire attack. 
Well as we all know the 2 ½” hose line is still alive and kicking today; so let’s learning more about the hose line. Using a 2 ½” Attack Line may be a daunting task and very difficult to maneuver throughout a structure.

Here are some benefits of using a 2 ½” line:
1.    Lower friction loss
2.    High fire flows
3.    Exceptional reach & penetration
4.    Heavy knockdown power

When to use:
1.    Heavy fire conditions regardless of occupancy
2.    Offensive attack isn’t safe or able to be conducted
3.    Large un-compartmentalized structures
4.    Unable to determine location, size or extent of fire
5.    High-rise buildings
6.    Large brush or trash fires

Something to consider: 
50 feet of a charged 2 ½” line weighs 106lbs and 50 feet of a charged 1 ¾” weighs 52lbs. Take into account your manpower as well when deciding your initial attack line. 

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.

The Importance of Clean PPE

We all love that fresh smell of smoke on our gear. It lets others know we been in a fire and the charred up shield on our helmets tell our stories of the fires we been in. The soot filled turnout gear and sometimes all over our hands and face; the smokey smell in our hair for days, all of that comes with territory of fighting fire. It’s great isn’t it? It’s almost like a rite of passage into the service.  

But is it something that’s costing us years of our time in the service and almost shortening our days with our families?

While on the job, we as firefighters come in contact with tons of carcinogens, toxins and diseases found in structure fires, car fires, as well as blood and bodily fluids which can be carried away in our turnout gear causing potential harm through ingestion, inhalation and/or absorption. As members of the emergency services, we are continually trained on those three routes of entry when refreshing ourselves on our yearly blood borne pathogens training each year. Firefighters are not the only ones to be at risk for contracting potential hazards that are left on our uncleaned gear. Anyone who has direct contact with the gear is also at risk.  This goes for the general public as well since we all know children love getting tours of our firehouses, seeing our apparatus and trying to fit into our gear and wear our helmets. By not keeping our gear clean, exposures to others are possible since we are also in direct contact with the general public. 

Turnout gear that has been worn on fire-related calls, and has been in contact with carcinogens without cleaning in between calls will diminish the gears ability to protect the firefighter. The soot and other related products of burning leave a number of material deposits on the surface of gear and in the fibers of the protective layers of the gears causing the surface of the gear to be less heat reflective. In the presence of oils and other flammable materials, the heat absorption on the surface of our gear, should this gear not have been cleaned prior to making contact, could potentially lead to re-ignition or flash over. When considering the less obvious type of soot - carbon based soot – increases conductivity when in contact with live wires, raising potential for electrical shock. 

Long term effects of dirty gear is quite simple, it doesn’t last as long as the manufacturers recommendation. The soot and other particles that were continually absorbed into the gear will begin to break down the shell of our gear and some of those particles and burn bits that are lodged in our gear can become abrasive causing rips and tears in our gear. Regular human movements and the bending and folding of the gear will cause the rips and tears in the gear abs wear out the fibers. Recommended cleaning of the shell of the gear is ever six months at minimum or more depending on how much contact we have with soot and other carcinogens to reduce the amount of abrasive particles picked up in our gear. So remember to wash your gear; keep yourself, your crew, your family and the general public safe. Just like we take pride in keeping our apparatus, our station and our tools clean, we should our turnout gear because it’s another tool to keep us safe. So take pride in looking your best on every run because we are always in the public eye!

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

About the Author

NICHOLAS J. HIGGINS is a firefighter with 14 years of 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.

 

How Are You Training?

We have all heard the saying “I’ve seen one fire; I’ve seen them all”. Well the saying really goes “I’ve seen one fire…I’ve seen one fire”. No two fires are the same but in this article we aren’t here to talk about fire behavior and fire science, we are here to talk about training. 

Each one of us knows a firefighter or two on their department that speaks like they know a whole lot about everything but in actuality the individual knows a whole lot about nothing. They seem to think after they get their minimum requirements by their respective state and meet departmental requirements they don’t need to do much more to better themselves on the job. Believe me, this isn’t all firefighters but there’s always an outlier in the group.

I know what you’re thinking. Why am I saying this?

I’m saying this because continual education is one of the most important aspects to the longevity of job.

In New Jersey, the state requires firefighters who enter the fire academy to fulfill 192 of initial training in the “Firefighter 1” Program before they can sit for the State Firefighter Exam along with an additional 120 hours of training in the “Firefighter 2” Program. Most departments in the state also require personnel to be EMT certified which requires a minimum of 210 hours of training. This consists of classroom, hands on training and ER (emergency room) time. 
In addition to this, most departments do require their personnel to have other types of training that is required by their respective department. Some of these courses include but are not limited to pump operations, incident management, officer training, technical rescue and any other specialized training that is specific to the work of their department.

EMTs in NJ who need to renew their certification are required to complete 24 hours of an EMT Refresher consisting of 3 modules over a 3-year period. Each module is a total of 8 hours of training; where each module contains a specific area that has to be covered. Module A contains airways, module B covers medical emergencies and module C covers trauma. 
Most departments require firefighters to have an annual refresher each year covering bloodborne pathogens, hazmat, ICS, SCBA refresher and your Right to Know annual refresher. 
Is this enough training for firefighters to keep fresh and up to date with changes and updates in the fire service? Why isn’t there a mandated requirement like EMTs have by covering certain areas in the same way the EMT Refresher does? 

As we know, departments are consistently doing refresher training on a variety of skills to keep their firefighters fresh and up to date on new standards and skills. Which, in my opinion is a very resourceful way to keep skills sharp while adding new ones. But here’s the next question, outside of required department training, what else are firefighters doing to better themselves on the job?  

I noted 3 areas of training that I live by in order to achieve my goals, with the 3 in my opinion being the most important, to do what I can to advance my firefighter career.
1.    Classroom training
2.    Hands on training
3.    Self-education

Education is a key to success but hard work and dedication opens the door to the advancement of your career. This is why I say self-education is the most important of the 3 areas of training. We all can go to our required training but can we all pick ourselves up and read a few books, watch a webinar, listen to a podcast or read articles in magazines or on websites that pertain to our job all during our valued and much needed time off? 
Let’s challenge ourselves to add at least one of these self-education areas into our personal toolbox and go above and beyond what is asked of us.

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

About the Author

NICHOLAS J. HIGGINS is a firefighter with 14 years of 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.

All About Truss, Part 2

In the first part of our mini blog series on truss, we spoke about the 2 basic types of roof truss; Pitched Chord Truss and Parallel Chord Truss. In this part, we will discuss a few other types of roof truss; King Post, Queen Post, Gambrel and Bowstring Truss. So let’s now talk about some truss.

King Post Truss

This is the simplest form of truss construction due to the minimal number of truss members in the system (individual lengths of either wood or metal). It consists of 2 diagonal members that meet at the apex (otherwise known as the peak, tip, or top) of the truss. One horizontal beam serves to tie the bottom end of the diagonal members together and the king post connects the apex the horizontal beam below. In roof truss construction the diagonal members are known as rafters and the horizontal members are known as a ceiling joist.

The king post truss system is limited to how far up it can extend (maximum of 30 feet) and is unsuitable for longer spans. If a larger system is in fact needed, additional diagonal members would be needed to make multiple truss systems. This system was often used in the Medieval, Gothic Revival and Queen Anne Architecture and was originated in the 13th century and commonly used in the 15th century. Today the king post truss system can be found in European churches, barns and bridges.

                                                                      King Post Truss

Queen Post Truss

The queen post is a tension member in a truss designed system to expand longer openings than a king post truss can. As we know a king post truss uses one central supporting post (king post), while the queen post truss uses two. Although it is a tension member and not a compression member, the posts are still commonly referred to as posts. The queen post truss system is used when a larger span is needed to be covered (30-45 feet and possibly up to 60 feet). This system transfers the weight load of the roof to the eave posts, which allow for a clean open space that requires no internal posts that could affect the design of the building. This type of system provides exceptional structural support and can be combined with other types of roof truss systems. 

Gambrel Truss

Gambrel Truss is one of the earliest types of roof construction in American architecture. The earliest documented use was in the 1600’s. Gambrel truss, often confused with Hipped Roof, is commonly referred to as “Dutch Colonial” giving the roof a barn like appearance and is often found in Colonial style architecture which makes frequent use of the Gambrel Truss system. This system is a symmetrical, doubled-sided roof with a double slope on each side. The lower slope is known as a steep and has an almost vertical angle. The Gambrel system allows for a maximum amount of storage space in the attic area and do not require interior walls or support posts. Most pitched roofs have sharply angled walls that make for much of the space unusable, except when using the Gambrel Truss system. This is due to the pitch break being in the Gambrel roof itself and allowing for more interior space to be used because of the slope of the ceiling. This allows for more space directly under the roof to be used as living space.

                                                                        Gambrel Truss

Bowstring Truss

The name of this system is directly related to the look of the truss system. The shape resembles an archery bow, thus how it gets its name. Bowstring Truss was first used for arched truss bridges, which is often confused as tied-arched bridges and are great for spanning large distances. There are many different variations in the arrangement of the members connecting the nodes of the upper arc with those of the lower chord. In some instances, the lower sections go up at a slightly steeper angle than the other sections of the truss, which allow for easier water run-off. In some cases, a roof may be built over the top of an already existing bowstring truss roof. If this has occurred, the ridge at the top of the roof may not have a ridge cap. A ridge cap normally runs along the length of the roof, covering the seam where the materials forming each side of the roof join at the very top of the roof. Since this system is arched, there is no point at the top where the two sets of roofing materials meet.

Bowstring truss was a very popular structural system in the early 20th century, especially in America. Today, large wooden bowstring truss systems are popping up all over. They are refurbished and left exposed as former industrial spaces are being reconstructed for other purposes. Because of this, it is allowing for new uses in the construction industry such as skylights being added to the roof between each truss system. Bowstring trusses are found almost everywhere today, from warehouses and bowling alleys to even coffee shops and modern offices but as in all truss systems, should one fail, they all fail.

In the next part of this series, we will discuss the dangers associated with truss construction on the fire ground.

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

About the Author

NICHOLAS J. HIGGINS is a firefighter with 14 years of 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.

All About Truss, Part 1

As we all know, building construction has changed drastically over the last 20-25 years especially with the evolution of the increasingly popular use of lightweight construction and its engineered structural components. The reason for its popularity is simple; the load carrying capacity increases in these structures and its cost efficient.

Originally in this post, I said this has changed over the last 20-25 but in reality the changes started to have an impact on the fire service around 50-65 years ago with the development of the first part of the structural component, floor and roof truss construction which were both and to an extent are today held together with glue.

So let’s start off with the basic types wood truss construction.

Trusses are easily identifiable by their triangular framework of multiple structural elements. This is what distinguishes them from other structural products. Due to their structural efficiency this element is a cost-effective solutions for many structures we see all over the world today (bridges & buildings). When talking about residential construction, wood truss held together but metal plates are the primary type used and are fabricated from 2x4 or 2x6 dimension lumber. Any trusses built from larger dimension lumber is usually found in custom built homes and due to the popularity of these type of homes today, this is fairly common in newer suburban developments.   

Roof Truss

In roof truss construction the three sides of the triangle are known as “chords” and the pieces connecting the top and bottom chords together are known as the “webs”. The “connectors” that join the chords and webs in the modern truss system together are usually done by metal-toothed plates and is most common in truss roof assembly. In truss roof assembly or otherwise known as pitch chord truss, the top chord is sloped and the bottom chord is typically horizontal because it will directly support the ceiling.

 

                                                                     Pitch Chord Truss

Another type of truss found in roof truss assembly is parallel chord truss but this is normally found to form floor assemblies. In this type of truss assembly, the top and bottom chords run parallel with the top chord in compression and the bottom chord in tension.

 

                                                                   Parallel Chord Truss

 In both parallel and pitched chord trusses metal tooth plate connectors (MPC) are used extensively to join the chords and webs together. These connectors are multi-tooth plated and are embedded into the wood fibers using a hydraulic press.

 

                                                                    Multi Tooth Plates

 So how do these trusses carry a load?

As we all know from high school geometry, a simple triangle is stable in nature and all 3 sides are equal. Meaning, any force applied to it will be transferred around all three sides with limited movement or change of shape. As previously mentioned, the top chord is in compression and the bottom is under tension when the system is under what is known as gravity loads (i.e. live loads). Live loads are not to be confused with the assembly itself.

Redistributing the load

The performance of wood truss construction, whether exposed to outside forces such as hurricanes, earthquakes or fire can be attributable to 2 factors.

Structural redundancy & load redistribution across the floor or roof

This is found within each truss. When one truss member fails, the load it is carrying will redistribute itself to the remaining truss members. Also, should one of the truss lose its strength or stiffness, the entire assembly – floor or roof – will redistribute the loads through sheathing and/or bracing to the adjacent trusses.

When a single member of a truss is cut, the structural integrity is in fact compromised. However, this alone will not normally cause a catastrophic collapse. In most cases the truss will still carry the most of the normal load that has been originally applied. The cut member of the truss however, will cause a glaring defect that will need inspection. When looking at a total collapse of the system, this is dependent on many factors. These factors will include the amount of the load, span of the truss, & roof and floor integrity all under fire conditions or not.

In the next part of this multi-part series, we will discuss other types of more advanced wood truss construction.

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

About the Author

NICHOLAS J. HIGGINS is a firefighter with 14 years of 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.

Understand a Backdraft

In today’s society firefighters are responding to fires during the later stage of the fully developed stage or at beginning of the decaying stage of fire. This is to no fault of our own, in which multiple factors go into this such as time of day, traffic, faulty fire alarms systems or lack thereof, etc., but understanding the risk of responding to fires as this stage and the vital role we play by knowing fire behavior and knowing the effects of what happens at each stage of fire growth. In this stage, we as firefighters are at an inherent risk of responding to confined fires deprived of oxygen and without proper ventilation and coordination, we are adding to the problem rather than making it better. One of the biggest risk we run into is called a backdraft. A backdraft, also known as a smoke explosion NFPA 921: Guide for Fire & Explosion Investigations, 2011 Edition as, “A deflagration resulting from the sudden introduction of air into a confined space containing oxygen-deficient products of incomplete combustion.” 

So let’s talk now about the science of a backdraft. In decaying stage burning is incomplete because of the lack of oxygen feeding the fire, causing the fire to smolder or burn out. Nonetheless, the heat released from the fully developed state still remains and all flammable products of combustion are waiting for an introduction to oxygen so they can instantaneously combust in the room. We as trained firefighters can prevent this act from happening through proper ventilation. By doing so properly and in a timely manner, the upper areas in the room will be cleared from smoke and unburned gases which is done at the highest point possible. Coincidentally, if this is improperly done, the same unburned gases and other products of combustion are now at a higher risk to instantaneously combust once oxygen is introduced to the room causing a devastating effect on the structure and those in and around it. It is to be known that it only takes 25% of the space in a room or fire area to cause a backdraft to occur. 
With this being said there are certain warning signs that can be seen to indicate if a backdraft appears emanate:

• Black smoke becoming dense, greyish yellow

• Confinement and excessive heat

• Little or no visible flame

• Smoke leaving the building in puffs and being drawn back in

• Smoke stained and/or rattling windows

• Muffled sounds

• Sudden, rapid movement of air and smoke inward when an opening is made
Now that we have discussed the science of a backdraft, let us now discuss how we can safely manage this type of situation.

Ventilation

Vertical ventilation is possibly the best and most effective method of venting a structure showing signs of a backdraft. This will allow for the superheated gases to escape without introducing an excessive amount of oxygen into the structure. Should an explosion still occur during vertical vent, the force will be directed up and away from the vent crew that created the opening (roof cuts, skylight pops, etc.). Should vertical ventilation not be possible for us, horizontal ventilation is a consideration. This could be done using pike poles 6 feet or greater and positioning yourself near the corner of the building and moving all companies out of the “hot zone” or collapse zone. 

Quenching

Another method would be to quench the gases. This is done before we enter the room where the superheated gases were present. A few short blasts of water to the ceiling (also known as penciling) will provide enough cooling to stop an explosion from occurring. By doing this, we are controlling the heat release rate (HHR) and if we can control the heat release rate we can control the fire. 

Flanking

If vertical vent and quenching not be an option, we could consider flanking the fire. To flank the fire, we should position engine company crews at the sides of the doorway and cool the room (compartment) with their hose streams. When doing this, make sure to not cross hose streams and take note of the windows in the room, if possible. A psi pressure of a mere 0.5 will blow windows out.  

Let’s all take this and answer these questions next time we are working on the fire ground.

What do you see upon arrival as the initial Incident Commander or first due Engine Company? 

What significance do these observations tell us about the fire conditions?

What's is the smoke telling us? 

What would be your actions?

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

About the Author

NICHOLAS J. HIGGINS is a firefighter with 14 years of 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.

The Halligan & its Mechanical Advantages for Forcible Entry

The most used and go to tool in the fire service as we all know is the Halligan. The Halligan as we know is used for “everything” from forcing a door to searching a room, making purchase points in vehicle extrication to wall breaches and clearing windows for ventilation or a possible egress. You name it and a Halligan bar will probably be a tool of choice for any job on the fire ground, if not the tool of choice. Every apparatus has one or more on them for a reason, so it’s best we know not only what it’s used for but also know the bar.

Being able to use a Halligan for multiple purposes on the fire ground is wonderful but knowing the dimensions of the Halligan can offer firefighters more of an advantage when using the tool especially during forcible entry.  

But first let’s start with the bar’s history.

The Halligan was invented by Deputy Chief Hugh A. Halligan of the FDNY in the 1940s. Hugh Halligan was first appointed chief of the FDNY on June 16, 1916. Prior to the Halligan, the tools of choice or its predecessors as we could call it were the Claw tool and the Kelly tool. The Claw tool was considered one of the FDNY’s first forcible entry tools. The downside to this tool was its weight and the off-centered striking surface that made it dangerous for the firefighter holding the tool as it was being driven into a door.

The next tool was choice was the Kelly tool which was developed by the then captain of Ladder Company 163, John Kelly. Unlike the Claw tool, the Kelly tools striking surface was inline with the bar and had a 90 degree flat surface (adze end). Similarly to Claw tool, the Kelly tool was also welded and still heavy and due to both tools specific advantages, both were to be used during fire ground operations.

This is where Chief Halligan came in and wanted to develop a tool that could be held in one hand, wouldn’t break or crack and would not fatigue a firefighter while using it. This was the birth of the Halligan bar. The bar was made of cross-drop forged from one piece of No. 4140 high carbon content steel. As soon as the tool was available on the market it was a huge success that the Boston Fire Department was one of the first departments to place a Halligan bar on every ladder company in the department.

Today most of us use the modern take on the Halligan or the Pro Bar as it is called, which is the one tool that has stayed most true to original specs of the Halligan bar. It is fabricated from one piece of drop forged steel and measures 30 inches in length. The forks have a tapered V shape of space between them along with a gradual curve for leverage when prying. The adze end and pick also have a gradual curve for more of an advantage as well.

The dimensions of the Halligan bar

A standard Halligan is 30 inches in overall length. It consists of an adze end, a pick and a fork (or claw). The fork is 6 inches in length and the crotch of the fork is 5 inches – this is key for conventional forcible entry. The adze end is also 6 inches in length and 2 inches wide. The pick is 6 inches in length and the adze/pick triangle is 5 inches tall.  

Now that we know the dimensions of the Halligan bar, how will this help us in forcible entry?

Using the Adze end

More often than not when dealing with outward swinging doors, we will look to gap, crush or tunnel the door between the door (above the lock) and the jamb using the adze end of the Halligan in doing so and moving the tool up or down offering a 15:1 mechanical advantage with a maximum spread of 2 inches (width of the adze). The 15:1 MA is from the 30 inch Halligan bar and the 2 inch adze end of the bar. When forcing an outward swinging door it is advantageous to pry down on left side opening doors and pry up on right side opening doors. The key is to roll up in the direction opposite the pick to gain maximum leverage.

Forcing inward swinging doors is done in the same fashion as outward swinging doors except the Halligan is used in a different position yet the mechanical advantages will remain the same.

Using the adze end is similar to a class I lever. This is where the fulcrum placed between the effort and load. The movement of the load is in the opposite direction of the movement of the effort and the most typical lever configuration. Fulcrum or pivot point is the point on which an object balances or turns.

Using the Fork

When driving the fork between the door and the frame, the fork should be driven 3 inches past the edge of the door frame creating fulcrum. This will put our load on the Halligan at the 5 inch mark (the length of the crotch of the Halligan) at the door jamb, resulting in a load to fulcrum length of 2 inches. The more we drive our Halligan into the jamb the less we of a mechanical advantage we have when using the tool.

Using the fork is similar to a class II lever. This is where the load is between the effort and the fulcrum. In this, the movement of the load is in the same direction as the effort.

Work hard, stay safe and live inspired. 

About the Author

NICHOLAS J. HIGGINS is a firefighter with 14 years of 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.

The Importance of Fire Flow in Today's Fire Service

We have all heard the saying “put the wet stuff on the red stuff” and as true and basic as it sounds there is a lot more that goes into than that. Every firefighter on the fire ground – from the nozzle man, to the company officer making tactical decisions on how to attack the fire, all the way to the chief officer overseeing and defending these operations  – should have a basic understanding of fire flow and ways to determine fire flow requirements based on the building they are operating in.

When determining fire flow our main goal is simple; cool the involved combustibles dropping them below the temperature at which they produce ignitable vapors and heat to support fire growth. This as we all know is done by fire suppression and can be accomplished in 2 ways. Directly attacking the fire and indirectly attacking the fire. Without going in to detail on this it is simply put that direct attack is flowing water directly on burning solid materials and indirect is flowing water onto the overhead smoke layer and thermal layer to disrupt the flow of heat and combustible gases.

So with that being said, why do we need to understand the importance of fire flow?

For starters, a lot has changed in the fire service over the last 15-20 years and let’s begin with defining heat release rate. This is the amount of time needed for a given fuel depending on its mass to produce enough energy, also known as heat, to influence combustion. Fifteen to twenty years ago our fire flow was calculated at 95 & 125 GPM (gallons per minute) for a safe and efficient flow. Nowadays due to changes in society a safe an efficient fire flow is now calculated at 150 & 200 GPM. In those years back fires would reach flashover conditions within an estimated 10 minutes of ignition. Today, they are reaching flashovers in less than 4 minutes.

Without talking building construction and the transition from legacy construction into the development of the modern day lightweight construction (truss) as well as hybrid construction, and we can save that discussion for another day, one other reason fire flow is said to be important is due to more plastic products being developed. These have a combustion rate of 3 times of traditional Class-A combustibles. Plastics are derived from petrochemicals (hydrocarbons) and are found in almost every consumer product on the market today. With the creation and advancements in modern computer aided dispatching systems, fire departments are arriving sooner to alarms and at times making entry the same time the fire is reaching flashover conditions.

To determine your ever so important fire flow, these factors come in to play:

  • Size & type of structure (residential/commercial/industrial)
  • What and where is your water supply?
  • Apparatus tank size and pump capacity
  • Hose and nozzle configuration
  • What’s your crew size and their average response times?

With that being said remember this, the minimum fire flow must be capable of absorbing the maximum potential heat release rate to immediately prevent the fire from transitioning to the flashover stage.

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

About the Author

NICHOLAS J. HIGGINS is a firefighter with 14 years of 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.

Lead from the front or lead from the back? It doesn’t matter as long as there’s a leader

In today’s world, there is a strong need for leaders to emerge. Some will go to work and do their usual 9 to 5, go home, go to sleep and do it all over again wondering if their manager will ever recognize their strengths and honor their accomplishments. Unfortunately that isn’t the case when we speak about managers. Managers will be there to oversee work and make sure the work gets completed but that’s as far as it goes. Why? Because that’s their job and that’s what they are paid to do. They are results driven based on objectives and don’t have time or take the risks to go beyond that. This goes for all professions across the board. Not all professions have leaders in managerial roles and they aren’t expected to because that’s not what managers are there for. This is part of the reason the fire service has been as strong as it has been since its inception in the United States by a great man known as Benjamin Franklin.
It has been known for many decades that the two things that resonate deep in the fire service is family and respect for our fellow firefighters and our customers; in this case the residents of the community we are sworn to protect. Firefighters want leaders to lead them when the bell goes off and the same goes for those outside of the fire service but how does this happen? 

Simple!

Be your own leader. 

We can all have a manager driving us each day to produce the results they want for their company because in the end all companies have a goal they need to complete. For us in the fire service it’s saving lives and protecting property. For those in the corporate world, it’s producing the numbers to make a profit and working long hours away from family to produce those numbers is what a manger will push their subordinates to do in order to meet those deadlines. 

So why do I say be your own leader? I say this because if you can’t lead yourself you’ll never lead anyone else or go beyond your limits of expectation. It shouldn’t matter where you are in the organization, from the newbie to the most experienced, a leader knows how to build a following regardless of title. The following are my 4 traits to being an effective in and out of the firehouse.

1.    Be Honest. Nothing says leadership than honesty. Building a solid foundation based on honesty not only builds trust between you and those you work with but also keeps them inspired to want to work with you. 

2.    Inspire Others. In order to do this you, yourself must be inspired to excel in your role. If you’re not enthused about what you do others won’t be either. This is another way of leading by example.

3.    Stay Positive. There will be times things will be tough and throwing your hands in the air swearing sometimes natural happens. That’s ok, stay calm and stay positive. The more positive you look the better off everyone around you is during chaotic times. The best chiefs are the ones who remain calm on the radio despite all the chaos around them. Listen to radio transmissions of other departments and take notes on how each officer speaks on the radio. Take the calm ones and keep them in memory to try and emulate their calmness. Also, do the same for the ones who are frantically screaming and tell yourself to try and avoid that as much as possible. This will all come with experience and many years of practice for most.

4.    Be Committed. Be committed to yourself first. Then be committed to your job and your crew. This starts with training. Keeping your skill fresh and sharpened says a lot about you as a person as it does as a leader. People tend to flock to those who are committed to the job and take pride and excellence in it. You don’t need to be the officer to the guy who starts a training session. We are all in this together. 

There they are. My four traits to being a leader. Take these and use them in your life to grow and inspire those to work with and meet on a daily basis. 

Being a manager comes from a title promotion. Being a leader comes from within.

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

About the Author

NICHOLAS J. HIGGINS is a firefighter with 14 years of 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.

Respect

As many of you have probably heard the line, “the fire service was here before you and will be here after you.” It doesn’t get much simpler than that now does it? So while we are here, one of the most important things we can do is RESPECT it. When in the firehouse or out, always conduct yourself with respect for your fellow firefighters, the station and the job. Respect and be thankful to those who have been in the service before you because as we all know they are the ones teaching you what you are learning and play a role in your growth and success. Show them you want to follow in their footsteps when it’s time for them to step aside. Make them be confident that you can lead, teach, inspire and make sound fire ground decisions. Show up ready to work and be expected to work hard and get dirty. Be willing to learn as much as you can and become proficient at what you have learned. 

Always carry a level of professionalism as well because we are always a direct representation and reflection of not only our department and the fire service as a whole but to our families. Most importantly remember one thing; the name on your helmet represents your department. The name on your coat represents who raised you. Do them both justice. 

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

About the Author

NICHOLAS J. HIGGINS is a firefighter with 14 years of 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.

I’m a Firefighter, So Now What?

I would first off like to start by welcoming and congratulating you all into a very special family and thank you for making a commitment to protecting and serving others.  We all start out as “rookie” firefighters not knowing what to expect when making the decision to enter into such a commitment as the fire service but we all know there’s a reason deep down in each of us that is calling us to this service.  Just like anything else we start off as a blank slate ready to learn with a ton of ambition and drive to succeed.  

In the beginning we feel scared, our nerves are eating at us and we don’t want to make anyone think we can’t do this while the pressure is mounting but we are determined not to be defeated.  Being in this situation is a scary task and feeling as if you are alone is a real experience.  Because of this, here is a list of 10 ways to grow as a firefighter, stay motivated and have a great fire service career:

1. Respect and honor the fire service.  Guys who were here before you paved the way for you to be in this today.  Respect their sacrifices and honor their legacies.  Not everyone can follow in the firefighting tradition.  Consider it an honor. 

2. Stay humble.  Egos are only as big as front door and should be left outside the house.  Cockiness is a firefighter killer and there is no room for it in the firehouse or on the fire ground.  

3. Show respect.  The words “please”, “thank you” and addressing chief and company officers as such goes a long way to a long respective career (volunteer or paid).  Showing signs of professionalism at all times is a key to success that will leave a lasting impression on the guys you are working with and will ultimately earn you a level of respect. Remember, treat others how you yourself would want to be treated. 

4. Strive for excellence.  Have a “can do” attitude.  Come in each and every day with the attitude of a winner, show initiative, work hard and dedication and you may impress even the most experienced member of your department.  Excellence is a habit. Not a goal.

5.  Know your crew members.  Getting to know the men and women you serve with is a great way to build a working relationship and develop teamwork.  Do this through simple conversation, training and on scene teamwork. But remember, what you do on the fire ground will positively or negatively impact your crew and you won’t be judged individually but as a whole.  We are a TEAM in and out the firehouse.       

6. Know your PPE.  You were given the PPE for a reason and shown in the academy how to wear it properly, again for a reason.  This isn’t a fashion show and no one cares how silly you look as long as you come home safe and in one piece.  We aren’t indestructible.

7. Know your apparatus.  The better you know your apparatus, the better you know your skills and know what’s expected of you when assignments are given. 

8.  Educate yourself.  Training and education doesn’t end the day you’re certified through the state as a firefighter.  Firefighting, like anything else takes years of dedication to be proficient at.  Training doesn’t come just inside the firehouse with your crew.  Self-studying, training and continuous education is the key to staying mentally sharp and promotes growth. 

9.  Complacency Kills.  No two fires or alarms are the same and SHOULD NOT be treated as such.  Always strive for more and never stop wanting to be better than you were yesterday.

10. Look to the future.  Sooner than later the term will go from “rookie” or “probie” or even “FNG” (we can all fill in the blanks on that one) and will become experienced firefighters and for some of us, even have a company officers rank but don’t ever forget how you got there.  Always remember you were once the “new guy on the block” and how hard work, discipline and dedication got you to where you are today.  Share the experiences and knowledge with the new generations as they come on because one day those boots you grew into will be passed on to the next.  The best way to leave your mark is quoted by the Dalai Lama “Share your knowledge.  It’s the best way to achieve immorality”. 

Speaking from experience, this is a very long and daunting task that takes years of dedication to accomplish and I challenge all firefighters to take these words, step up and complete the lifelong challenge.  

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

About the Author

NICHOLAS J. HIGGINS is a firefighter with 14 years of 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.