Control the Door – By: Nate DeMarse

On December 14th, 2010 we had a DOOR CONTROL post in this blog.  We discussed methods of controlling the door.  This post discusses why door control is important, as shown at a specific fire.  Other tips are also provided.

As the forcible entry and nozzle teams ascend to the second floor, they are met with a heavy smoke condition.  As they near this apartment, heavy smoke and fire are pushing from the cracks in the door shown above.  The paint is peeling, the top one third of the door glowing and distorted.  Time to go to work!

Destroying the integrity of this door during a forcible entry operation will certainly spell disaster for anyone (civilian or firefighter) operating or caught above the fire floor.  Many uninformed firefighters will opt to simply “bash” the door out of the frame (usually from the hinged side) with a sledge hammer/maul.  This technique is dangerous and unprofessional, and in many cases will not work!

If you are a firefighter that likes to “bash” the door in like a SWAT team, ask yourself these questions:

- What is the plan for door control if the engine is on a frozen/broken hydrant?
- What is the plan if the engine loses water?
- What is the plan if the fire cannot be controlled?

We are professionals, and our forcible entry operation should reflect as such:  This door (as should all doors) should be taken with the Irons, using conventional forcible entry techniques.  Gap the door, set the forks, and force the door ON THE LOCK SIDE.  Then CONTROL THE DOOR by grabbing the door with the Halligan or reaching in with a hook (pike pole) to close the door until a charged attack line is in position.  If any of the questions above surface during our operation, members can withdraw to the safety of the public hallway, and close the door until the problem is rectified, then resume the attack.  See the video below to review the steps described above:

This video is a real door, in a steel frame. It has two heavy locks in place, and an angle-iron shield which complicates the operation. It took less than a minute to force and control.

Note the cable wire (held in place in the ceiling corner by a plastic cover).  This plastic covering melts with very little exposure to heat, dropping the cable onto members entering/leaving the doorway below.

This photo shows two side-by-side doorways, typically both apartments will share the wall that runs between the doorways to an exterior wall.  A firefighter entering the right door to perform a search or advance oa hose-line on a fire should know that there are probably no rooms on the left wall, and all of the rooms are most likely located off of the right wall.  The apartment on the left will most likely be a mirror image of the right apartment.

This fire was on the second floor of a 6 story brick apartment building.  Several civilians were trapped on the floors above, including 6 unconscious civilians (an entire family) that were trying to make their way to the roof, but were trapped behind a locked steel gate in the bulkhead.  The unconscious civilians were actually found by the first and second due Roof Firefighters performing a sweep of the bulkhead (after forcing the bulkhead door to vent). All six civilians survived.

Although many departments may not have H-types or 6 story apartment buildings, the rules above also apply to garden apartments, “Main Street type” apartment buildings or private houses converted to apartments.

Feel free to leave your comments or questions.

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We specialize in the basic fundamentals of firefighting. While we believe that hazardous materials, terrorism, emergency medical and the various rescue disciplines are essential parts of the Fire Service, we also think that the basic fundamentals of firefighting have been overlooked in recent years. We are here to help turn that trend in the other direction.

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