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Let's Talk Fire: Tools of the Trade Expanded
Entry requires a dedicated tool.
Tools Make The Man......or Woman
We know, or at least we should know to never enter a structure without a primary tool. This could be an axe, a halligan, a combination of both or what ever helps you get the job you have to do done. Yes, probie take notes, not with crayons get a pen you yard breather!
Most firefighters carry the essentials such as flashlights and rope but there are a bunch of other great tools that can make our job easier and even better safer. Remember we are number one because as one of my favorite trainers always says, "ain't nobody loves me more than me." These simple tools can get us in a house or in the event we needed it get us out of a bad situation and let's face facts, firefighting is full of bad situations.
I am going to go over a few toys I like to carry and look at some other options other firefighters are utilizing. This does not mean you have to carry what I do but design your own assortment of get me out of danger free tools that aid and assist you.
The FUBAR in Action
Get 'er Done Tools
Get 'er done tools are those bad boys like axes and various bars that allow us to force doors and tear down walls. Some firefighters are very comfortable with these items but there is a side to the GED tool that needs explored. Sure you have that axe in hand but what happens if you drop it, do you have a secondary GED tool? The issue you should be concerned about is... no probie, not when is lunch. Where do they find these guys! The issue is weight. It is hard to carry one large tool into a structure in full PPE yet alone a second. But here is where we get a break.
There are smaller tools that accomplish the same thing. If an axe is your thing as a firefighter why not carry a hatchet in a holster on your gear? It gives you the cutting edge and a second tool for situations where the axe may be to big or forgotten in the flame. All manners of hatchets and smaller grade fire axes exist on the market. They serve to really make a firefighter's load lighter and that does wonders for how we operate in the scene.
Myself I carry in a tool that was for the longest time over looked as a fire service tool. The Stanley Fatmax Wrecking bar. This little brute can take out cinder block, rip through interior wall and generally makes me look pretty well bad ass hanging from my utility holster. The fubar goes in every scene I do as my secondary tool but the coolest part is due to it's multitude of features it can actually be my primary go to if needed. I have a striking surface, prying surface, and a gripping surface so I have tons of options handy in one tool. That is important. Firefighters need to carry tools that can function on a multitude of levels and be ready to really train with that tool until it is a part of them.
Figure 8 On A Bite
Bail Out Device Demonstration
Bail Out Devices
My response area is void of major story buildings. 2 is generally the tallest we see. Even in that regard a firefighter making entry into a structure that may require them to bail out of a window needs to have a bail out device or at the very least a nice sturdy 50 foot section of rope and the ability to tie knots. I recommend a figure 8 on a bite myself.
Bail out kits are sadly very expensive and can set a firefighter back quite a bit. I myself carry a small pouch with 50 foot of high tensile rope that has a working load of 700 pounds and a carabiner to attach it. I may never end up pulling this out of my gear but it is always better to have something and never use it than need it and not have it. I have found that descent devices such as the F4 are a great way to make self rescue from an upper story a lot easier and lower the risk but in truth as long as you can repel you will be fine in this situation.
The key is you need to carry rope in your turn out. I carry enough to get down from a third story building but I also carry several smaller pieces for drags and other ops that may arrise. Rope can be a very important part of your turn out gear.
Test Test Test... Is This House On
Dealing with structure fires means we deal with the electric company and all the jazz electricity brings to the fire scene. Trust me if you have never seen an electrical arc blow through a charged hose line you ain't lived yet. One of our biggest concerns when dealing with a house fire is the power. Is it on, off or do we even know? That is an issue that can create a very disturbing feeling when making entry. Sadly I have seen structures disengaged from the power pole yet still have power from other sources feeding the house's main lines.
We all know the inherent dangers of electricity on a fire scene and off so we want to mitigate that disaster immediately. I use a small voltage detector. I simply make entry and as soon as I can locate a wall outlet I insert the tip and if my blue toy turns red I know I still have a live power flow in that structure and I either need to vacate and get that remedied or rethink how I am going to handle the situation all together. These tools are very cheap and come in a variety of sizes so they are ideal for the firefighter looking to save some weight and room on their person.
Remember safety first so we need to know ahead of time if possible what we are going into.
Cutters can save the day.
What do we need?
I can't say for certain what you as an individual firefighter should carry on your person. That is a choice each member of the service makes for themselves. I know and work with people who use no tools other than a forced entry tool. I also work with some who are geared to the max.
I will say some things make life a little easier. Extra flashlights can be a life saver when that primary one stops working on you. I also carry 10 foot of webbing for rescue drags and other small task. These items just make my life a little easier.
I am known to carry lumber crayons to mark doors but I also carry small high glow orange tags that hunters use to mark trails on me just in case I need to mark a spot in the structure that would present a danger for a fellow firefighter who may have to come that way.
Always carry some form of cutting device. I like to carry two. The first is a primary cutter which is either a linesman tool or a battery cable cutter. These work well on all manner of cables and wiring you may confront. My second unit is a coax cutter that serves to cut smaller entanglement issues.
Know your tools and know where they are on you as a person. It is important to be ready to get to them when they are needed.
Let's Talk Fire on Facebook
I will be extending more on this subject matter in the future and showing a few tricks with some unexpected items that can save you time and trouble. I encourage everyone to join Let's Talk Fire on Facebook. We love to hear from others in the service and as always I welcome comments on this article.
Stay safe out there.