Kicking Doors 101

Posted 04/13/2014 by IRONSandLADDERS
Categories: 1. Forcible Entry

Tags: , ,

A quick thought on kicking doors. We teach not to do it. Not because it won’t open doors, because  honestly it will open a lot of them. I am not trying to kid anyone and say that we have not kicked open residential doors before. But I will say when I was still kicking doors open it is because I didn’t properly understand how to use a Halligan bar. So kicking was the easiest way for me to open an apartment door that was on fire. After I gained some experience, learned my way around a set of Irons and really thought about when and when not to kick a door, it became real clear to me that because I was now properly trained on a Halligan bar (and I carry it), there was no reason for me to kick doors open. They can be opened just as fast with a competent person on the tool. The other thing I noticed was kicking doors was wasted experience, it was a perfect opportunity to hone your skills with the Irons on a real door in a real frame. Thus building your confidence and not letting all of your experience be based on a forcible entry prop. Lastly, when luck runs out, because at some point it will, a person who is competent on their Irons now has multiple options and is very proficient in them because they have been forcing doors with the Irons for most of their career instead of kicking them for 15 years. Attacking doors based on knowledge rather then luck will give you a much stronger foundation when it’s time to force the doors that are out of the ordinary. You will find doors you cannot kick, and when you do, and the luck of kicking runs out, you will set the tone for the fire ground with a real bad forcible entry situation. To many people are relying on us to base our operations on luck.  Long live skillful Irons work!

These doors are all out of occupied residential homes.


Coordinated Vertical Ventilation (Arrival, Cut, Aftermath)

Posted 03/23/2014 by IRONSandLADDERS
Categories: 4. Ventilation

(Note: Brian Brush and myself were having a discussion early this morning about these photos. They are some of the better photos I have seen in a long time showing vertical ventilation in coordination with an interior attack. Rarely do we get photos that give you an accurate look of the building upon arrival, as the lines are being stretched, the hole being cut, the smoke lifting and the vent hole igniting, and then wrapping it up with a great photo as the engine makes a hit on the fire. We both thought it was worthy of discussion and definitely photos worth sharing with everyone for their own vertical vent training. I provided Brian with the photos and some of the on scene tactics and he put the article together for us. Thanks Brush!     – Ryan Royal)

Let us first begin with a review of what UL is saying, not from my interpretation but from the source themselves. UL exists to present data not dictate tactics. As you can see from the list presented in the slide to the left from their presentation they feel there is a need to clearly address several points which some in the fire service are misinterpreting, one of which is vertical ventilation.

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From what I have gathered from the UL studies and presentation of their data there are several key points.

-Fires in enclosed structures are ventilation controlled

-Ventilation will intensify fire behavior

-Ventilation must be performed in a timely and coordinated manner in order to be effective and not counter productive

Heat is a fire’s greatest strength and most predictable attribute, it wants to go up. Using the thermal column to ventilate fires has allowed us to live and work around fires in enclosed spaces for thousands of years. Because of the simplicity and reliability of the chimney effect, using heat to ventilate should be the first option considered. Vertically venting also takes a great deal of the fire’s energy out of our plane of operation as we typically operate horizontally in structures with our stretches and searches.

There are a few key problems with utilizing heat as a ventilation method on most fires. The first is that unless it is a top floor fire the opportunity to get over the fire is not as readily available as horizontal options (windows and doors). The second is that once on the roof an opening must be created using saws which causes “damage”.

Aside from these two physical factors there is an overwhelming mental limitation to the utilization of vertical ventilation. The first limitation is the fear of working over fire. Be it searching the floor above for VES or vertically venting there is an almost instantaneous reduction in acceptance of the tactic due to “risk”. The thing is that many times between the roof decking and the room you have the compartment of the attic as a buffer. Too often this is lost on people who are predisposed to critique the viability of the tactic.

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In the first picture the hole in the decking has been cut and the smoke pushing is from a charged but uninvolved attic space. At this point no structural members of that roof are being exposed to fire however within the compartment of the top floor of the residence a significant fire is working and filling out the occupancy with smoke and heat. You can see the firefighter punching in the lid of the room with his pike pole which drops the ceiling and vents the room up and out. In the picture to the right you now see “heavy fire” but the lack of smoke displays a clean burn.  At this point the fire is impacting structural members of the attic space but the operation is complete and firefighters are off the roof. In many vertical ventilation scenarios the “10 minute ticker” of light weight construction isn’t started until firefighters have executed their mission which allows plenty of time for suppression.

The second mental limitation is the lack of confidence that vertical ventilation can be executed in a timely enough fashion to be coordinated. Working with ladders takes practice to get proficient but in this proficiency you will find the quickest route to efficiency as 80% of the time it take to preform vertical ventilation is getting to the objective. Quickly performing vertical ventilation also takes a game plan, rehearsal and even choreography all of which are barriers but none of which cannot be overcome.

As with anything there are no absolutes. You may be working in a department where getting one company to the scene to stretch a line in a timely manner is a problem let alone two companies arriving together to work in a coordinated manner. But for many of you I think it is important to note that with practice, training and understanding, many suburban districts where two companies are arriving in close proximity, will have 1 and 2 story single family dwellings that have roofs accessible by standard ground ladder compliments allowing for coordinated vertical ventilation as an option.

This series of pictures is from Colorado Springs Fire Department. CSFD sends 2 engines and 2 trucks to a single family home 1st alarm.  This is a midsize department consisting of 21 Engine Co’s, 6 Truck Co’s and a Rescue Co for a population of about 500,000 people. They serve everything from urban areas, suburban neighborhoods to urban interfaces. Do not get lost in who CSFD is and focus on this residence and the fact that three essential fire ground operations are being executed in coordination by the first two companies.

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This first picture is just after arrival of Engine 8 and Truck 8. While E8 is stretching across the yard T8 Irons crew will assess forcible entry and prepare to search and T8 ladders crew is the team going to the roof. You can see how charged the occupancy is with smoke pushing from eaves around the entire structure.

Once teams make entry on this type of fire, the conditions interior will confirm one of two things from what is observed on the outside. The fire is an involved compartment fire that has difficult conditions interior and is also pressurizing the attic. Or we will find that conditions interior are showing light to moderate smoke with no obvious fire and at that point we should be considering strictly an attic fire, or an outside fire that is moving in. Which this specific fire was.

Multiple ladders are thrown and access is made to the area suspected to be closest to the fire. This was determined by smoke conditions of the eves and of the roof vents near the ridge line. Access to the cutting area is done utilizing the hip of the roof for stability and using your hook to provide solid sounding of the roof decking. Once at the ridge a roof survey can be quickly visualized to confirm fire location and roof stability.


Once the position was chosen, the roof decking is cut and  the charged attic space dumps very pressurized smoke out of the opening.

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The smoke quickly ignites, a thermal column develops and is intensifying the fire but increased fire activity and energy is largely channeled up and out.

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You can see in this picture the overall presentation of the structure is cleaned up and you have free burning out the vent hole. Less than a minute after the hole is cut T8 ladders crew is on the ground.

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Shortly after that E8 now has very clear access and an obvious fire location above them, they pull ceiling from below and hit the fire in the attic. The steam conversion is observed as it too is now channeled up and out the vent opening. This is about as text book an example of coordinated vertical ventilation as you can find. Executed largely on a foundation of clear expectations, solid understanding, and constant training.


The take home here is that while CSFD potentially has a bigger first alarm assignment than your district this was handled largely by 8 people. While T8 is a 109’ aerial, this was executed with a chainsaw and a ladder compliment found as standard on most all engines in smaller departments.

Stop letting people tell you what you can’t do and start looking at what can be done.

Hand On Forcible Entry Class – Video Preview

Posted 02/15/2014 by IRONSandLADDERS
Categories: 1. Forcible Entry

Here is a video preview for our hands on forcible entry classes. Thank you for all the support over the years, we have officially trained over 1000 Colorado Firefighters. We still have plenty more to go! Sign up today, or contact us about being a host department. Lets keep spreading the solid forcible entry technique based on a foundation of good Irons work.

Please share this video if you have taken our class and thought it was worth your time and money.

March 8th and 9th Forcible Entry Classes

Posted 02/08/2014 by IRONSandLADDERS
Categories: Uncategorized

Announcing our first two Hands On Forcible Entry Classes for 2014. We have been asked to be part of one of the best conferences I have seen in Colorado for a long time. There is an amazing lineup of instructors and the best part is, all of it benefits the Colorado Terry Farrell Firefighters Fund. This will be the only classes we are able to do in the spring, we will be busy with closed session classes until May.

Sign up for our classes either on March 8th or March 9th. Visit this link to register now to save your spot.


Ladder Work- Reverse Tip Raise 35′

Posted 01/29/2014 by IRONSandLADDERS
Categories: 5. Ladder Work

Here is a quick ladder technique that can help you overcome steep and unstable grades that you must place a ground ladder on. This is a pretty common scenario in our city and I am sure you can come up with a  few ways to handle this same problem. We like this one because it has the most control and takes the least amount of energy during the raise.

Typically we approach a fire building with the butt end of the ladder heading towards the building, or running parallel with it. For this scenario we will approach the building with the tip of the ladder. Take the extra couple seconds to walk up this type of terrain with some care so you don’t take yourself out before the raise even happens. When doing this reverse tip raise I like to approach the building and setup for a flat raise directly in front of my intended target.


Once you’re at the top of the hill, have the tip person get the tip of the ladder as close to the building as possible, this will prevent adjustments with the 35′ after you have raised it. Get your ladder squared up to the target and identify a good area for the butt of the ladder to be footed. This is another example where it is worth the time to take an extra 10 seconds to move the rocks or level the ground out as best you can before the ladder is fully extended. It is critical that the butt of this ladder does not slip when you start to raise.


Below is one of the main advantages of this type of raise. The firefighter on the uphill side has good leverage and control as he raises the ladder.  If you tried to approach this building and raise the ladder in a traditional flat or beam raise from the bottom of the hill up, you would either run out of reach above your head, possibly run out of strength, and risk a much higher chance of dropping the ladder back down. This also keeps your ladder in the right position so you do not have to rotate it while freestanding in this rock bed or on a hillside.


The rest of the raise is similar to any other traditional flat raise. It does take some practice to judge your extension height when standing on the downhill side. It can be deceiving but this is overcome with some repetition.


Once the ladder is extended and you are ready to lower it into the building, you will see that you actually gain a lot of control here. Because the uphill firefighter is higher up on the ladder, it gives him good leverage to control the ladder into the building.

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Personally, I prefer the beam raise on most normal ladder throws and use them almost all of the time. There is definitely a time and a place for flat raises, and as you can see, even a time for a reverse flat raise. Another time we will carry our ladders tip first, is if we are performing an ally raise with overhead wires. This is something we can demonstrate in a different article.

We have had good luck with this, but it is not a throw I would want to try for the first time when it is actually needed on a fire scene. I highly recommend spending some time on this beforehand so you can have some extra control on your hands until it feels fine tuned. This building we are practicing at had a multi alarm fire years ago that required numerous ladder rescues of occupants by the first in Truck Co’s. It was not over this rock bed, but was right next door and very close to being a very realistic scenario.

Do you have areas like this in your city or still districts? If so give it a try and see if you like this reverse raise.

Mental Poison

Posted 01/03/2014 by IRONSandLADDERS
Categories: 7. Everything Else

This one has been brewing for years, and I think it is time to get it out in the open for everyone to share. I really struggle with this topic and it creates a lot of frustration for me to try and comprehend that this is something we are even talking about. Lets just start it out bluntly.

If you’re already set in your ways, and have long ago decided that not only are you going to just simply gather a paycheck but at the same time hold a deep never ending grudge for the guys that are trying to move forward and make this job better, then go ahead,  hold on to that mediocre mentality, sit back for the ride and finish your career in that state, but by all means KEEP IT TO YOURSELF!

I am truly sick of new, young, great minds on this job coming to me discouraged because these people have decided to demotivate them and talk trash about myself, my crew and everything we believe in. You know who you are, and I hope you sit back for a second and realize that you are mentally poisoning the youth and future of our job. It is easier for you to verbally bring us down to new guys (because they won’t talk back) then it is to step up and bring your own crew to the front and raise the bar. This is criminal, do you know how big of an impact you have on these guys that are just trying to do the right thing and work hard. They are at a point in their career where they are just looking for guidance on how to do their job right, and trying to figure out what that really means. The good ones are attracted to places where they have mentors that will actually teach them, but then you try and spin us off as “those guys”, and proceed to describe to them every single way that I will ruin their career if they come around me.  That is garbage.

We have a great bunch of people that have come on our job in the last few years, some of the best new guys that I have ever had come through our firehouse and other great ones I didn’t get to work with. Hungry, motivated, self driven, and ready to get better everyday. They are blowing the old expectations  of what it meant to be a good new guy out of the water. When they finish their probation and move on to their own firehouse I  watch with great satisfaction as these new guys start making an impact on their own with their highly motivated mentality of holding themselves to a standard of pursuing mastery of their craft. At the end of the day,  my only goal for them as they rotate through our firehouse, is to mentor and teach them the way I would want to be taught. DSCN2940 - Version 3

If we hold up on our end of the deal of what it means to be mentors, then we will reap the rewards across the entire job as that mentality slowly moves around the city. However, as I have learned first hand, be prepared to put yourself out there and take a beating from a group of people that will fight this type of energy everyday of your career. DSCN0470 - Version 2

Here’s some examples of  the mental poison that is being put into these young motivated minds by others who are threatened by what we are teaching. They tell these guys to be very careful at my firehouse and never let yourself become one of “those guys”. They will say that it’s an easy thing to get sucked into down there and you will see in the long run it is a waste of your time and energy. They will make accusations that we only care about fires but never focus on any other aspect of our job. They will try to convince them that it is all shallow egos, cockiness, and bravado. They will even go as far as to tell these guys that they are training too much and that they will never make it through a career if they don’t take it easy. The list goes on of a hundred different examples that are being used in an attempt to scare them (the new guys) away from ever “being a part of that”.

Let me tell you what being “a part of that” is. Expectations are high, you come to work everyday knowing full well it could be the day where we need you at your best. You check your truck out in the morning like it’s actually your job. That doesn’t mean a walk around the truck, that means halyards are dressed and tied around only one rung. It means batteries are fresh on tools and blades have been replaced. It means running your hands down the chains on the saw to make sure they are sharp enough to grab your skin so you know they are fresh. It means the power heads/saws are getting run everyday. If lines are sloppy they are pulled and re loaded, yes, even in the winter or on a Sunday (what a concept). That is how important our apparatus is to us.


It means training comes first. If your priorities aren’t regularly based around quality company training, I can assure you nothing else will replace it. No amount of drawing on a whiteboard, or talking about hose lays at the tailboard will replace actually doing it. Your email management is not what makes you a good officer! We need leaders who are willing to get dirty and be the first one to step up at the next drill. If you are leading an engine company with one of these new guys on it right now and it has been more than a few shifts since you pulled a line, shame on you. You are  verbally telling them how wrong we are, but your inaction at your own firehouse is sending a far stronger message to them.  I have noticed a common denominator to the trash talking over the years. The more frequently you talk down about us, directly correlates with how infrequently you teach your new guy hose management. DSCN1675 - Version 2

Early on in my career, I was surprised how you almost had to feel bad for feeling this way about the job, I had plenty of times were that atmosphere made it feel like you were in the wrong and almost as if you should apologize for being at a certain firehouse. I got the same talks from guys telling me not to be a part of that, to choose my battles (and that this was not one to be involved in), I was that new guy receiving the same demotivating talks that the current ones are still hearing.

Company Pride does not have to equal unchecked Egos and cockiness. Can they go together sometimes? Sure they can. But 99% of this negative light that is brought on about my firehouse is created outside of it. I am not sure if it is insecurities about their own companies performance, or if they feel bad about the time spent in the lounge chairs while we are out training. But something makes them feel as if they need to discredit everything about us. When you have a group of guys that want to build a crew and their common goal is to be the best they can possibly be, company pride and espirit de corp will always be present. When another fire company does not have this common goal, does not believe in company pride, and sees training as more of a bother, then clearly it doesn’t take a genius to see why they are offended by a highly motivated crew with strong company pride.

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We understand that this high energy mentality that is starting to gain traction with our youth is intimidating. It requires a lot of hard work, dedication to training your new guy, and an all around commitment to raise the bar on your own performance. I am not sorry that we are choosing the hard way, because it is the right way. For those of you who truly believe in this mental poison you are spreading among our youth, keep it to yourselves. If you feel you have to talk to someone about it, I honestly welcome a phone call from you any day I am on shift. I will always have a discussion about this topic, but I will always ask you one question. Can you tell your Chief word for word these beliefs that you are so quick to tell to the new guys? Because I can tell him mine, and I stand behind every word. 

For the young guys that are working hard and trying to be masters of their craft….Keep on going, you are doing the right thing and we will always stand behind you. The right way is rarely the easiest way, and at the end of the day it is pretty clear who’s who.

-Ryan Royal

The Little Things

Posted 12/28/2013 by IRONSandLADDERS
Categories: 2. Hose Work


It’s the little things that make a difference.

Being part of the “Combat Ready” mentality means more then just surfing around the internet and staying up on current information. You must put it into practice. Train on it over and over again, until it is very hard to get it wrong. That’s what makes us truly prepared for our next fire.

The rig is checked like were going to use it, the saws are always run like we are going to use them, the hose is loaded perfect so it pulls perfect later. When these small links start to be ignored or overlooked, the result will be very clear the next time we go to use them.

When you treat your next fire call as if it is a working fire until we prove otherwise, it keeps your mind in a healthy state of expecting to go to work when we arrive. I take just as much pride in a small fire call that was laid out for success as I do in a good working fire that goes well. The photo below is a great example, this was an apartment fire call that was small and handled with an extinguisher. However you can see the great pride the nozzleman on E8 takes in getting his stretch right and being ready to go to work. (Nice accordion forward!!) This doesn’t happen without the right state of mind and a lot of self practice.

Don’t just tell yourself your ready, prove it to yourself. Talk is cheap, actions show the truth.IMG_4499


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