Blog By: FireRein Team
With files from Wikipedia, IFSTA Essentials of Fire Fighting and Fire Department Operations, 6th Edition, and YouTube.
Hooked On A Ceiling
The third tool in our trilogy of iconic Tools of the Trade is the pike pole. Besides the axe, it is probably the most recognizable tool of the firefighting service. The hooked pike pole has been used for hundreds of years for fighting fires, and was used as a weapon for thousands of years before. Pike poles have also seen duty in fishing, forestry, and construction, and have fulfilled humanity’s need for a tool that can reach heights far beyond what the human hand can grasp.
When adapted to the fire service, the pike pole is used to pull down interior and exterior walls, ceilings, and roofs to stop a fire's spread. During the initial attack, the advance of fire is prevented by easily tearing away structural elements, thereby exposing hidden fire for extinguishing, and by breaking glass in upper windows for smoke ventilation. During overhaul, the pike performs the same function and allows firefighters to uncover and extinguish hidden hot spots.
The versatile pike pole has other uses, like being able to be used in tandem with another pole and a tarp to form a makeshift stretcher to quickly remove an injured victim or wounded firefighter from an area, or to create a water chute to help flow excess water away from a structure, preventing further water damage.
The pole of the pike typically measures between 4 feet to 12 feet long, and is customarily made of hardwood. More recently, firefighting pike poles have been made of fibreglass and composite materials. The shorter 4’ length often has a D-ring handle and is called a closet pike. It is designed for use inside closets and other confined spaces where a longer pole wouldn’t fit.
A modern variant of the pike pole is the New York roof hook. Developed by FDNY Captain Bob Farrell and the New York City Fire Department – Research and Development Division during the 1960s and 1970s, it has two hooks on the head to help pull down metal roofing and drywall. The hook head can quickly remove roof cross-boards from the joists during ventilation by sliding it along the joist to quickly pop the boards. The roof hook functions almost like a hammer and hook combined; the butt end of the steel New York roof hook pole has a flattened tip that can be used for prying.
Whether used for initial attack or overhaul, the multifaceted roof hook tool can be utilized with a few techniques that every firefighter should learn. The Punch technique is performed by literally punching the head of the tool into an area of drywall and creating a box of perforations in the shape of a large square. The hook is then inserted into a corner of the square and a large sheet of drywall is pulled out with it. It is recommended to pull gently to avoid crumbling the sheet and making more work than necessary. For lath and plaster, gently punch the head of the hook horizontally into the wall to make a small hole called a purchase point. Slide the hook across the opening until the stud is hit, then rotate 90° and pull out, removing the lath. Continue pulling to open a large hole and check for fire. It is suggested to use the 90° hook to pull down ceiling material, not the smaller-angled hook.
The steel pole and flattened end tip of the New York roof hook may be used as a pry bar. When conducting forcible entry on a heavy steel door, combine the greater length of the roof hook tool with a Halligan for extra leverage. First, drive the Halligan into the door jamb with a sledgehammer or the back of a square axe head. Then, insert the pry tip of the roof hook pole under the downward-positioned point of the Halligan, and hold the pole of the roof hook tightly against the shaft of the Halligan. Use the roof hook pole as an extension lever with the Halligan to exert much more force against the door than would be generated with the Halligan only.
FireRein salutes the intrepid early firefighters who repurposed a weapon of war into an iconic life-saving tool for their contribution to the Fire Service. We’re proud to join our first responder colleagues who continue to depend on their "Tool of the Trade" every day.