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Pinning the Line

Pinning the Line

ANDY21996 was the year I entered the fire service as a volunteer, this was also the first year I read an article by Andy Fredericks. In his 1996 2 ½” Handline article for Fire Engineering Andy laid a foundation of support for an incredibly efficient weapon which at the time and in years following was largely falling out of favor in the American fire service. I would encourage you to revisit his piece as it bears repeating and expands on those topics which he explains much better than I could.

 Within that article Andy presented not only reasons but also techniques for making the 2 ½” handline a more readily available weapon for your engine company and one of those techniques was “pinning the line”. As I am sure anyone who has had to have the 2 ½” handline debate, staffing is one of the first hurdles to overcome.

When you move up from an 1 ¾” attack line with the 15/16tip and a flow of 185 GPM at 50 PSI (nozzle reaction of 66lbs) to the 2 ½” attack line with a 1 1/8” tip and a flow of 266 GPM at 50 Psi your nozzle reaction is also increased to around 96lbs. This jump in nozzle reaction force of about 30 pounds theoretically requires 3 firefighters on the line to manage those forces. This theory is based on the works of Paul Grimmwood on the abilities of firefighters to manage nozzle reaction. Since most handlines in the American fire service are being operated by two firefighters this becomes a quick ticket out on the big line……”we don’t have the staffing”

pining the linePhoto by Matt Daly

The first time I saw the technique of “pinning the line” was in that 1996 article in this photo by Matt Daly. Andy explains the method as the backup man pinning the hose to the ground using his hands and knees which allows the nozzle man to “freely operate and move the nozzle without the undue stress of the nozzle reaction.”

“Pinning the line” is a method to direct the nozzle reaction forces into the ground or walls instead of the muscles and frame of the firefighters. By applying this method we can counter reaction forces with technique instead of man power.


328 GPM from the 1 1/4″ Tip managed by a single firefighter

Over the years I have learned various forms of this technique. In 2005 while in Boise Idaho, Jay Commella and Daryl Liggins of the Oakland Fire Department presented a technique of pinning the line as a single firefighter by using your knee in place of the backup man. The key is ensuring that you maintain plenty of hose in front of you so small movements at the base (you) will keep the now common foundation and operator  solid while getting maximum stream movement and use. After sharing this technique with several crews and groups I began to hear chatter that the knee on the hose method was “fine for the outside but not for the interior firefight”.

IMG_4625                                 IMG_4617

To counter that argument I present the fact that my overall profile in using a knee on the hose or traditional stance with the line is relatively the same, however if you insist on traditional stream positioning you can still utilize methods of pinning the line to absorb reaction forces.

Here the stream is maintained upward and the line directly behind so that energy is transmitted down the line and into the ground.

backThis is a look at a method specifically for the interior where the line is brought through the legs and pinned to an interior wall to take the reaction forces off the nozzle man.

photo15Finally we are back to the most traditional of attacks, two on the line pushing in. The backup man supporting directly behind the nozzle position by taking the nozzle reaction to the friction and collection point of the ground. All the while 250 to 325GPM is being thrown as far as 60’ ahead of this two person crew.

pinning the lineEffective – Efficient –  High Caliber – Safe

1st Annual Terry Fund Colorado Training Symposium

1st Annual Terry Fund Colorado Training Symposium

Terry Fund CO MarchI have been fortunate to have worked with the Colorado Chapter of the Terry Farrell Firefighters Fund for the last 3 years and their work continues to impress. The fund exists to provide immediate no red tape funding to firefighters and departments in Colorado for emergencies, hardships, training or equipment. In just 3 years the fund has donated over $80,000 to Colorado Firefighters which has been raised through events which span from their annual firefighters ball to 9/11 and St. Patrick’s day fundraisers and frequent trainings through the educational series.

This weekend the fund took the educational series one step further and held the first Colorado Training Symposium and it was outstanding. The focus of the event was on recent UL information and current discussion on the topic of ventilation.

Top level instructors like Van Dorpe, Ceriello, Norwood and Gray provided different views on a similar topic from their varying department size and operation, geographic location and individual experience. Even the hands on forcible entry classes from Irons and Ladders stressed the importance of how solid conventional forcible entry techniques preserve the door and allow for improved vent point control. In total over 250 firefighter representing 46 departments from 4 states attended events this weekend and I believe they all left with not only a better understanding of the new information but with options and tools to take it back to their organizations specific operations and cultures.

I was lucky enough to lead off the conference on Friday with my 4 hour Ventilation Principles ans Practices class which allowed me to spend the rest of the weekend taking in the other great classes and even forcing some doors. Thanks again to all who attended and especially to the Brothers at the Terry Fund who put together a top notch event from classes to camaraderie.

image image_1 image_3 image_7 image_4 image_2



The 2 1/2″ Two Minute Drill

The 2 1/2″ Two Minute Drill

Here is a simple drill to bring single firefighter hose work together (see 1 + 1 = 2 1/2″ for a quick set up option) When drilling with the 2 1/2″, good technique and body mechanics are critical because it will not allow you to take short cuts or power through like the 1 3/4″.  Yes it is more work but the increased weight and challenge it presents will build better skills and make that 1 3/4″ you typically stretch just that much easier.


Pro Bar and Maxximus Rex Comparison

Pro Bar and Maxximus Rex Comparison

IPhone 332Bob Farrell shipped one of the first production Maxximus Rexxs out here and we were able to put it through some work at the Irons and Ladders class during the South Metro Fire Learning Symposium this October. Since then I received my own Maxximus Rexx and a Lock Slot 8 from Fire Hooks Unlimited and had the opportunity to put a little more work into these new tools. While there is still plenty of work to be done I think we have had enough time with these to pass on a few thoughts and comments. I will admit I had some reservations about any changes to the near perfected Pro-Bar but in the end I have been pleasantly surprised and found that overall the Maxximus is a great bar with some outstanding features that provide firefighters more options.

Before I talk about the Maxximus and Pro Bar I’ll hit on the Lock Slot 8 There is no debate or doubt here, the Lock Slot 8 is an outstanding axe. Well balanced for striking, a steel that strikes extremely well with the halligan and the polished finish and taper of the head is a great capture or driving wedge. The off the shelf notched head is well designed and placed marrying the halligan snugly and tight to the handle with no strap needed. Irons IPhone 533








lock slot 8 2 LockSlot4









Now on to the Maxximus Rex and how it compares to the Pro Bar. There are features which are improvements over current generation Pro-Bars and there are also areas where these options compromise the strengths of a standard Pro-Bar.

IPhone 537The Maxximus Rex comes with a rubber wrap however I prefer my halligan clean so I cut the grip off. You can see that side by side the main difference in the bars is the wider adze and the incorporated Rex tool. This right here is where the trade is made.

IPhone 496As through the lock training and technique is expanding more and more firefighters are discovering the speed at which doors can be defeated by pulling locks however it is typically done with a tool in addition to your standard irons, like Rex, Lil Rex, Adze Rex, Truckman’s Tool, S&D Tool, A-Tool, K-Tool and so on and so on. The Maxximus Rex provides that lock puller built in and it is very efficient. The design of it is very slim which slides in well behind the locks and the single piece forged bar wastes no energy in transfer to the lock and it fails locks quicklydeadboltThe trade off for the benefit of the lock puller is the wider adze which reduces the mechanical advantage of “camming” the adze. A standard adze is about 2″ wide where as the Maxximus is closer to 3″. On the 30″ bar this changes the mechanical advantage in this technique from 15:1 to about 10:1 or 33%. If this is difficult to think through here are two videos to demonstrate. The door was set with the same resistance wood and performed multiple times to confirm the difference was not just variations in the wood. Scroll down and hit play on them at the same time.

As the videos show the standard adze fails the prop with much less effort. This difference also presents when using the tool in this fashion to create a gap using the door crush technique on an outward swinging door. The thinner adze does set in the gap better initially than a standard adze however due to the lack of taper and curvature on the Maxximus adze it takes more outward pull on the bar with the strikes then the standard adze which tends to more naturally work around the door as it is driven in.

IPhone 526 IPhone 525The best feature of the Maxximus is the out of the box tuning of the bar and the harder steel. I believe that these will be transferred to next generation Pro-Bars as well but I have no idea when you will see it. The forks are very well done, and you’ll find depth marks on both the adze and the forks from the forge.

IPhone 336 Pro Bar and Maxximus Pro Bar and MaxximusSo what is my final verdict? If you are a department with little money for additional through the lock tools and mainly just engines, or a department running 3 piece holligan bars the Maxximus is a great option. If you are a department that has well tuned Pro-Bars and through the lock tools it will be difficult for you to see a need to replace a good thing with a very very close second. That said I am glad I had the opportunity to give it a try, I really like what it brings to the table and I won’t be giving it back or giving up our standard Pro Bars so in short look for us to be running both. IPhone 333

Ladders Up

Ladders Up

Last weekend was the second meeting with tLaddershe crew from Irons and Ladders out of Colorado Springs. I have had the good fortune of working next to these guys over the last few years here in the state of Colorado but most recently we have been working together to develop a solid ground ladder program.

A day of throwing ladders, talking techniques, tools and teaching methods at the Castle Rock Fire Department Training Center with Quint 155 moved us even closer to the final product. A few more meet ups and drill days and the program should be ready to pilot.

It is an exciting thing to be a part of. Irons and Ladders has already established an outstanding and Nationally recognized forcible entry program, pairing it with a ground ladders class will provide a top level two day truck company foundations course.

counter balance                       Double hook 16 CRFD Ladders                       16 versus 14

Conventional Methods for Defeating Window Bars

Conventional Methods for Defeating Window Bars

In most settings window bars are more deterrent than actual fortification.  There are places where window bars and coverings can be substantially built and designed as an obstacle, for example commercial occupancies or vacant property systems.  For the most part window bars and coverings on occupied residential and multi-family dwellings are designed to intimidate criminals from an attempt.  We are not criminals and we should not be intimidated.

I hesitated with this post for two reasons; the first is that window bars have been covered in detail by several others recently.  The second is that when it comes to window bars and coverings the styles and attachment types are endless and any effort to cover it is simply the tip of the iceberg.

I am a fortunate because my first alarm resources include proactive RIT crews, truck companies and a heavy rescue with a variety of tools, saws and task/equipment familiar firefighters for forcible entry duties.  The presence of window bars on arrival is not much of a curve ball for our operations. I say I am fortunate because this is not the case in every department.

For a lightly staffed or volunteer department that only runs and equips engine companies the presence of window bars at a working fire may be seen as a significant problem. This holds especially true if training and lack of education has programmed them to believe that saws are the primary method for defeating them.

Even with a well-equipped and staffed response there is the potential that the first arriving engine finds an immediate rescue behind the window bars and no time to wait for a saw.

Gresham Oregon on November 29th 2012 – Photo: Greg Muhr

Please see the link to the downloadable PDF as an introduction to widow bar and covering types.  This is not all inclusive! The document covers some types and some methods.  Due to the variety of window bars and coverings, I highly recommend you use this document as a template for you to size up and discuss methods for your area not as the resource for your area.

As the foundational message of forcible entry is “try before you pry” I hope you take from this “try before you cut”.  When you encounter window bars and coverings it is a good idea to bring a forcible entry saw with you or call for one. In the meantime or in the absence of a saw, a quick size up may reveal to you that conventional methods and standard tools can defeat them.

Click the link below for a downloadable PDF training document:

Conventional Methods for Defeating Window Bars

Upcoming Events

Upcoming Events

Still spots available for the 1st Annual Terry Farrell Firefighters Fund – Colorado Chapter Training Symposium March 7th 8th and 9th. Come out and learn from, ask questions of, and interact with advisory panel members to the UL studies (Lt Sean Gray, Chief PJ Norwood, Chief Peter Van Dorpe, and Lt. John Ceriello) as well as Lt Brian Brush and Irons and Ladders LLC! to register and for the full conference packet

Terry Fund CO MarchKilgore Fire Department Texas introduces Spring Training 2014 March 14,15,16

Spring Training 2014 will be our first event at the newly renovated Meadowbrook Golf and Event Center featuring the Firehouse Bar and Grill. Make sure you sign up soon we have a limited number of seats available.

Kilgore Spring Training Page 1 Kilgore Spring Training page 2 Kilgore Spring Training page3


Gaining Relative Superiority: The 2½-Inch Handline FDIC 2014 Indianapolis Thursday April 10th 10:30
Brian Brush, West Metro (CO) Fire Rescue

The theory of relative superiority is a foundation of special operations that comes to us from Admiral William McRaven, commander of the United States Special Operations Command. McRaven defines relative superiority as “a condition that exists when a smaller attacking force gains a decisive advantage and control over a larger, defending enemy. Once relative superiority is achieved, the attacking force is no longer at a disadvantage and has the initiative to exploit the enemy’s weakness and secure victory.” American fire service firefighting forces have been reduced, and modern fuel loading and lightweight construction make our enemy (the fire) a growing threat. Although the 2½-inch handline is a larger line, it is still a single line. Through training, education, and proper tool selection, your single-line engine company can effectively deploy and initiate an attack with the bigger weapon, putting you back on top in the fight. ALL LEVELS

July 19th Ventilation Principles and Practices Seminar and HOT – First In Response Essentials Chadwick IL


The ventilation principles and practices class was designed to reestablish a fundamental understanding of why, how and when we perform various ventilation tactics. The class begins with a thorough review of fire behavior. I then introduce the hierarchy of ventilation thought process and finish the course with an operational focus on vertical, horizontal and mechanical ventilation tactics. 

This four hour hands on training will cover peaked and flat roof saw operations, solidify the importance of the sounding firefighter role and allow for time to discuss and practice tactical action plans for performing vertical ventilation specific to your department staffing and equipment.

Register at –

1 + 1 = 2 1/2″

1 + 1 = 2 1/2″

Too often we look to others for training; chiefs, officers, engineers, senior firefighters or a training division. How much work are you putting in to quality training opportunities for yourself? Getting creative with readily available equipment and yourself takes away excuses. When you don’t have to take a rig out of service or motivate and coordinate an entire crew to get involved these brief solos training sessions can improve efficiency and quality. Here is an example of a set up to improve 2 ½” attack line operations involving 1 firefighter and 1 hydrant.

Often referred to aPhoto1Brushs “the big line”, operating the 2 ½” attack line efficiently and comfortably takes sound techniques and good body positioning, neither of which can be faked when dealing with this high caliber weapon. Working to master this tool means hours of practice with numerous failures and successes until you begin to create muscle memory, anticipation and adaptability. Proficiency will not come to you if your approach is one repetition and done as a part of a training group.  Take responsibility for your skills and abilities and create individual training sessions where personal development is the focus. If you have a hydrant at your fire station you have can quickly and easily set up one of these sessions.

The Set Up

Photo2Brush      Photo3Brush



Step 1: Determine the hydrant pressure by using an inline pressure gauge from a stand pipe kit and gate valve, or by briefly hooking the hydrant up to an engine and reading the intake gauge. If the water system in your area is reliable record this pressure by marking it on the hydrant for future drills.

Photo4BrushStep 2: Take the operating pressure for your selected nozzle, gallon per minute flow and friction loss per 100’ of 2 ½” hose to set up an attack line length which will be properly supported by hydrant pressure. Most hydrant systems will see little if any drop in pressure flowing a single line. This step of the set up process can also be repeated as a drill in itself to improve the understanding of hydraulic calculations by changing tip sizes and therefore hose length.


Photo6BrushStep 3: Flake out the attack line to support the skill or drill you want to work on. At this point parking spots can become hallways, curbs, doorways and the sides of firehouses, well involved top floor apartment buildings.  While you are flowing in a parking lot or on the pad of the station in reality the context of the scenario is only limited to the space between your ears.

Skills and Drills

When using low pressure nozzles like smooth bores or low pressure fog tips, the 2 ½” line can be a forward moving line even with reduced staffing. Looping and sitting on the larger handlines limits their range and versatility. This is fine for surround and drowns but if we are hoping to knock down and ultimately extinguish the body of fire we need to have continuous forward progress and good coverage with the stream.  There are a variety of methods for maintaining a forward moving posture with the large diameter attack lines.  Take advantage of this drill time to experiment with a various techniques for flowing the line.

Photo7BrushPhoto8BrushFor the knock down and advance with limited staffing it is best to utilize a hit and move process. Advancing while flowing with these high GPM lines as a single person compromises stream placement and fatigues the nozzle firefighter.  The best cadence for this operation is; set up, flow, shut down, advance. With the heavy stream and long reach of the 2 ½” attack line these brief pauses between attacks to help you advance can be done safely under most conditions and help us maintain forward progress on the body of fire. As you can see in photo 9 dragging the nozzle by the bale and a loop at the first coupling we move a very capable attack platform of 50’ of hose forward with each advance. Photo9Brush(Right hand is through the bale of the nozzle keeping it closed on the drag, left is on first coupling back from the nozzle.)

Creating a good visual gauge of stream reach is an important part of drilling with the 2 ½”. This will help establish knowns for you as a firefighter at the next fire. Pick a variety of targets and objectives to work on stream placement and hoseline movement. With each of these positions start to record mentally stream break over in regards to a given location so you can start to gauge where an effective fire stream can be delivered. In photo 10 you see a high quality stream is hitting the 2nd floor window and more than likely would hit the ceiling of that room. In photo 11 you can see that distancing the nozzle from the door allows for great coverage with minimal movement at the nozzle. Increased coverage with reduced movement at the nozzle is important to limit the effects of nozzle reaction on the single line operator.


If you become tired of time on the nozzle, you can always improve your back up or door man skills by moving hose at various points. In this set up with 200 feet of hose on the ground there is no shortage of opportunity to move the line. Photo12Brush(Use the curb to simulate pulling hose in at a door way using a row technique.)

Photo13Brush(Advancing loops into the first floor of the tower) Photo14Brush(Feeding hose in)

I believe the proverb is “If you give a man a fish you feed him for a day. Teach a man to fish and you feed him for a lifetime.” If  at your department you depend on others to sustain your appetite for training but you are the type of person reading this magazine on your own accord, you are bound to starve. Instructor certifications, lesson plans, power points and a full company are not required to get out and train. I hope that this quick article shows that just a little initiative and creativity is all you need. Hose work is one of the blue collar fundamentals of our trade so head out to the hydrant with some hose and become a do it yourselfer today, you never know when it will pay off.

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