Implements of Destruction: Opening Windows and Breaking Down Doors

Firefighters often need to get past a locked door, cut through rooftops or break down walls and ceilings. To accomplish these tasks, they use tools that are commonly referred to as implements of destruction. These devices are specially designed to help the firefighter forcibly get past any structural barriers. The origin of many of these tools dates back to the early days of firefighting.

One particular tool greatly affected the firefighting profession—the pull-down hook. Hook and ladder crews were so named during a time period when a cornice or pull-down hook was used to pull down teetering chimneys or burning roofing materials during a fire. It consisted of a heavy forged hook and a heavy, solid-link chain. A pole was placed in the hook to hoist it up onto a cornice or chimney, and a rope was attached to a ring in the end of the chain.

Today, firefighters use different styles of pike poles to open holes in walls and ceilings. They are available in an assortment of head designs, with different types of handles and a wide range of lengths. Although the various designs are used for different types of construction, from drywall to plaster, they were all developed and adapted by firefighters.

One example is the Halligan tool, a multipurpose pry-bar that makes it possible for the user to quickly open several types of locked doors. Designed by a firefighter, it is one of the most frequently used tools of the modern-day firefighter. For more delicate situations, the K-tool is used. It allows the firefighter to extract a complete cylinder lock from a door in just a few seconds. And finally, in some instances tools like gasoline-powered chain saws and circular saws have been adapted to the special needs of today’s firefighters.

The photo of the Pull Down Hook was loaded from the FASNY Museum.

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