By Ray McCormack
Mysteries abound on the fireground behind doors that need popping. Yes, we can have smoke behind doors in states varying from seeping to pumping, but the mystery is still not solved with a barrier between us and the fire; Getting in also ranges from clumsy kicks to a studied-entry technique for a worthy opponent. To have never faced such a door is a shame, because the great challenge is something all firefighters should experience.
There is a difference between wood and steel. There is a difference between well-lit and smoked-out, but in talented hands, it makes little difference. Knowledge of forcible entry is the corner stone of truck work. Some may find that a debatable point, but without entry, we have no interior fire attack. Our interior launching pad only lifts off when entry is accomplished.
Doors range from moderate to extremely difficult to open: The makings of a tough forcible entry situation are not strictly based upon lock load. Tight spaces that restrict movement may have to be made more user-friendly by taking out the wall covering and creating the room we seek. Angles that cause us to work from a different approach than the norm can give us all pause; however, the biggest obstacle any firefighter will face from a door starts long before they arrive at the welcome mat if their knowledge of technique is as rusty as an ax left out in the rain.
Forcible entry technique needs to be understood from the basic steps through multi-lock doors. Why? Even if you never face a tight door with a few locks, the techniques of tool movement and placement - and leverage - principles are never wasted – and can be utilized for other operational fireground tasks. I worked with a firefighter who not only exuded confidence, he proved it, and feared no door. He relished the challenge and worked his skill-set beyond what others knew so that he could pass on the how-to of the majority forcible entry situations; however, knowledge is not enough: you need skill and a mind-set that aggressively attacks the challenge.
Your knowledge and experience blend together with a positive attitude that says, “I will get through this door,” establishes you as someone who should have this assignment. There are many soft evaluations and considerations that we can fumble through, and the answer we receive can be right or wrong and no one gets hurt - forcible entry is not one of those.
When it comes down to it, and we arrive at the fire building and start operating, the locked door needs to be opened; It needs to be opened quickly and thoroughly – and the people assigned to that task must have the skill-sets necessary to handle what is thrown at them. Their task may be difficult, but their training and determination will see them through their best efforts. Play time is over. It is now time to pop the door and start operations. Knowing your way through doors increases your tactical safety. See you on the other side.
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