Thursday, March 11, 2010

One Picture

A picture is worth a thousand words; an overused adage you say? Simply take a look at any fire photo from one of the photographers on our Photo Gallery page; you’ll never be at a loss for words. However, it may not be the most dynamic photos that become the most telling; rather, it’s the simple ones too that can often lead us to the same conclusion. It further becomes the elements that are not readily seen in the picture that, when discovered, lead us to see the big picture after all. That’s the goal of Urban Firefighter Magazine’s One Picture column. In this column, we’ll provide you with the photo. It’s up to you to find the elements; discuss them; and help us all see the big picture.

Here’s the first one, a common sight in our urban cities: the store gate. What are the elements of the big picture that are missing from this photo? Where do we start? What are we thinking about when we see this gate in our response area(s)? We’ve asked the questions, now let’s get some answers!


  1. At first glance I see a metal roll up door on the front of a commercial occupancy? After that would depend on what your job duties are or what rig you're riding on for this fire?

    I will assume Im riding the Rescue like I do at work. These are just random thoughts excuse me if they're out of order.
    1. Life hazards any immediate rescues?
    2. How many stories?
    3. Fire location?
    4. Type of construction? Most of our responses they are ordinary construction (taxpayers) chief concern is additional weight placed on the structure by commercial units both on the roof and inside. If its one story Type II with lightweight steel trusses, that's not good, we've all heard the horror stories.
    4. How many locks are on the roll up? Is it electric or manual?
    5. Decide whether to go after the locks or do a triangle cut in the middle, then continue to remove the metal slats to increase the opening after the initial crews make entry. The triangle cut is my personal preference.
    6. Going after the lock. Duckbill lock breaker and let the sledge hammer rip. Next choice rescue saw with channel locks with chain attached to stabilize the lock while the other member cuts. Thirdly a torch if the other options do not work. Always have to have a Plan A, B, & C and discuss these prior to the fire so everyone is on the same page.
    7. If raising the door make sure you secure the door in the up position you dont want it closing on the guys already operating inside.

    These are my random ramblings that all go thru my head. I usually don't post, but believe you guys are on to something here at Urban Firefighter!

  2. Ed- I think you are right about this website. I think it is very refreshing to visit a good website with good information for the men. UF- Keep up the good work.

  3. It appears (to me) that this photo may have been taken from the inside of the occupancy, and this lock may be affixed to the inside of the gate. If so, we are not going to know about this condition when we arrive at the store (on the other side) to gain access.

    If this door is used as a primary means of access to the store or occupancy, then there would be no padlocks present on the exterior. However when you attempt to open the gate, it will not open.

    A few questions to ask yourself that that point:

    - Is the gate mechanical? (chain box to the right or left of the door). If so, the padlock to the chain box may be cut and the chain used to raise the gate.
    - Is the gate electrical? (possible electrical key switch located near the door).
    - Is the gate manual? (handle present at the on the bottom of the door, no keyway box, no chain box).

    If the gate is a manual gate, there are no locks on the exterior and it will not open, you will be forced to cut the gate itself. I personally prefer the "Curtain Cut" (we all have our preferences =) ).

    Once the gate is cut and entry is gained, if you find a padlock as shown in the photo, what does that tell us?

    Correct.....If there is a padlock on the interior of a main access/egress door....There is a VERY HIGH probability of someone will be in the occupancy. This is relatively common to hard-working families that rent a store/restaurant and cannot afford an apartment. They will set up a living quarters in a sectioned-off rear store-room or in the cellar.

    Each night, instead of rolling down the gates, locking the padlocks on the exterior and taking the bus home they will now roll down the gates, pin and lock the gates from the INTERIOR, and go back to their living quarters to sleep. Although illegal and very dangerous, it is somewhat common. This is a recipe for disaster as well since most of the time the rear doors (if even present) are very securely locked and blocked with drop bars and other high security devices.

    Great photo guys! Anyone else with any thoughts?


    Nate DeMarse
    Co-Owner, Brotherhood Instructors, LLC.

  4. This also may be the exterior of a roll-down gate, and the larger rail on the left side may be the "chain-box" that I referenced in my post above.

    It doesn't appear that either of the staples on the rail are the pins that would hold the gate in a locked position. That leads me to the possibility of a the chain-box.

    If that is the case, the lock can be cut, the box opened and the door raised using the chain.

    Great drill, great photo!

  5. Between the one photo and Nate's comments/roll-up gates training outline. This will be our coffee table drill for Sunday @ the Firehoue. This stuff is GREAT. Thanks Nate for the detailed comments.

  6. I need to remove this lock. Tools to choose from include "Duckbill" lock breaker/heavy axe, large pipe wrench, metal cutting power saw. All of these tools can be used by firefighters at the same time if multiple locks are present. Does this type of lock allow for keyway removal? If you know which type of padlock allows for thru the lock would you consider using it?
    Great Posts
    Ray McCormack

  7. Excellent idea Ray and Eric. Great drill to discuss the basics. So simple yet thousands of ideas. Many ideas and stategies come to mind from this photo. I like the basics. As a good friend of mine always states, drills should be what the baseball players in the pros practice. "Ground balls to third." One photo, one position and stick to that. You have the Irons, it is 3 in the morning and smoke is emminating from multiple gates from a commercial occupancy. Size up kicks in but when faced with this picture a couple of quick questions should trigger. Is this the correct gate? Is there heat behind the gate? Feel with your ungloved hand quickly, or have the officer scan with T.I.C. Is this gate the entrance to the occupancy? Depending on what tool you choose you want to gain access to the store immediately so the Engine Company can get water on the fire! All the other gates can come later. Finally, after those few quick questions are answered, Locks or Gate? Especially when your choice in tools is the forcible entry saw w/ alumminum oxide blade. You need to choose, and choose wisely. If multiple locks are present, might be faster to cut the gate. Triangle? Curtain? That is for the next discussion. Worst case scenario is you choose the locks and run out of blade. You have not gained entry and everyone is looking at you. (New blades are out there that allow for continuous cutting. But not in city life. Bare bones. Get the job done with what you have on your rig)

    If locks are your choice, remember to "PULL the PINS" after cutting.

    If the gate is your preference, make it a doorway. Pull the slats using vise grips or halligan. Make access for the Engine Company as big as possible.

    Commercial at 3 AM, the life hazard is us brothers and sisters. Slow down and get the full picture. Stay safe

  8. Some of the elements I cant tell from the picture?

    -Will we HAVE to cut the gate? How many other locks secure this gate? Are they accessible? Is it a manual gate, chain driven or electric?? Is the lock in the picture actually securing anything or is it a dummy lock?? Make sure you arnt wasting blade and time on a lock thats a decoration! Will we be able to raise the door once the locks are removed or will we run into problems due to heat (warped gate)?? What is the condition of the entire assembly and will it become a collapse hazzard when it is in the rolled up position??

    From what I CAN see in the picture- my GUESS is the lock is an imitation of the American Series locks. Although it is very hard to tell in the picture, it appears that the silver finish on the lock surface is flaking away...which happens with the "Chinese" locks..making through the lock an option,although, for anything other than a minor fire inside...I would go straight for a saw and cut the lock.

    -Also...the lock in the picture looks to me, like it is locking the angle iron that encloses the chain of a chain driven mechanical gate. I see no pin..just the lock passing through 2 welded hasps.

    Great point Freddie, about the blade and choosing wisely! If you fail to take the time to make time and do a thorough size-up..and waste half your blade cutting locks that dont get you will no lonnger have enough blade left to cut that slats.