The “Door-within-a-Door” Cut – By Chris Collier

The “door within a door” cut is a method of defeating roll down gates and overhead doors.  One advantage of this method is it can be used on nearly all types of garage doors.  This cut can be used on sheet metal gates such as those found in self storage facilities; slat and/or mesh type gates found on storefronts, or panel style garage doors.

The first step in any forcible entry operation, is to assure that the gate/door is in fact locked.  Nothing is more embarrassing than being half-way through a forcible entry operation when someone realizes the door is unlocked and opens it.  After assuring that the door is in fact locked, our next step will be to perform a vertical cut on one side of the door/gate.  This vertical cut should be approximately six inches from the edge, start as high as the saw operator can reach, and extend as close to the ground as the saw will allow.  Be very aware of the saw blade’s location in relation to the ground.  An aluminum oxide blade could be completely destroyed upon contact with the ground.  A diamond-blade will usually not be effected.

The second cut is conducted at a 45-degree angle from the first, and is started approximately two feet from the ground.  Once again, this cut should be conducted as close to the ground as possible without making contact.  This triangular section can now be pushed in with a tool or your foot.  This cut-out is now allows the saw to be positioned to conduct a third cut through the bottom rail of the door or gate.

The fourth cut is a horizontal chest-height cut across the entire length of the door/gate.  It is important to NOT ATTEMPT to hold the saw over your head to get a little extra height.  This is the longest cut, and as the firefighter becomes fatigued the saw will naturally lower, and bind.  Again, if using an aluminum oxide blade, if the blade binds it could disintegrate and shut down your operation.  Proper saw and hand-positioning will allow the saw operator to conduct a much more efficient and professional cut, and still have energy to pull of the ceilings or drag a hose line inside.

The entire section of the door/gate that has been cut free can now “hinge-open” on the track opposite the cut.  Every effort should be made to assure that the door/gate IS NOT opened further than 90-degrees.  Opening the door greater than 90-degrees may cause the door section to pull out of the track.  If that occurs, gravity will take over, and the rest of the door will close/collapse downward, potentially trapping members.  It is still a good idea to bend the track with the forks of the Halligan to ensure that gravity will not be an issue.

When performing the cuts of the “Door within a Door”, assure that the saw blade is buried to the saw blade guard.  This is especially important if a 12-inch saw blade is in operation since it may not fully penetrate through the thicker insulated doors.  When cutting a panel-type garage door, try to cut at least 6-inches above or below the seam between two panels since the hinges that join the two panels are made up of thicker metal than the sheet-metal door, thus increasing blade wear.

This method of forcing roll down gates and over head doors is very efficient and professional when conducted by a well-trained firefighter.  There are several other options out there for cutting doors and gates… stay tuned for more!


  • Chad Snyder says:

    Great post guys, I have used this method with great results. One of the big advantages to this cut is that once the door is pulled away it leaves a huge opening and your not crawling over the cut door. I have seen people have issues when they dont cut all the way through the bottom brace. This can be made easier by wedging a tool under the door next to your bottom cut.
    Thanks for the post!
    Chad Snyder

  • Chris Piepenburg says:

    I like this method a ton! These roll down gates are becoming much more prevalent on residential structures. We have found numerous homes in our district that have these on all windows and doors, including garage doors. Pics to follow!

  • Nate Q. says:

    Looks like a good way to open these doors. I haven't had the chance to try it yet (training or on a job), but am guessing someone out there has tried it on residential garage doors. I was curious as to any potential reaction on doors with torsion springs/cables, as the weight of the door is no longer balancing one side. Don't know if I'm painting a good image of what I'm referring to, but just curiousas to what others experienced.

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