The Hinge Side – By: Chris Collier

I’ve heard many firefighters while discussing a door with multiple locks say, “I’ll just go for the hinge side.”  If this is not something you have ever done before you are in for a real surprise when you try it.

I was going to write about: when and why to force the hinge side, sizing up the hinge side, and door control when forcing the hinge side but I think those items are better left for the discussion portion of this drill.  This drill will cover the technique of pulling the hinges using only the irons and then we’ll discuss the rest to make it more interactive and interesting.

Once you have decided that you are going to force the hinge side of the door you will typically have three hinges to pull.  Start with the top hinge.  This a good idea because the smoke will be pushing from the top of the door and taking the top hinge will allow you to take the middle and lower hinge below the smoke and heat.  Also, anyone who has done any construction or mechanical work will tell you that working with your hands above chest level for any period of time gets tiring very quickly.  Taking the top hinge first allows you to work in this difficult position at the beginning of the operation while you are still fresh.  Place the fork of the halligan under the bottom of the top hinge with the bevel side towards the door.

Next, the striking firefighter will hit the halligan with the axe as directed by the halligan firefighter.  The objective of hitting the halligan is to loosen up the hinge and hopefully break the screws holding the hinge into the door and the jam.  Be sure to “cross your tools” while striking the halligan.  The striking surface of the axe should come in contact with the halligan perpendicular to the adz, this increases surface area and lessens the likelihood of missing.  As you can see from picture 1 this is not a normal striking position that we are used to with the irons which makes accuracy even more important to avoid injury.  After loosening or breaking the screws by striking the halligan pry up on the halligan to pull the hinge from between the door and the jam.

Make no mistake about it, this is not easy especially on the top hinge.  Usually the hinge will pull about half way out using the halligan in this manner.  Next flip the halligan over and place the fork under the bottom of the hinge with the concave side toward the door this time to increase leverage and pry up to pull the hinge completely out.  One down, two to go!

Next, attack the middle hinge.  If you put the fork of the halligan over the top of the middle hinge the adz will be roughly where the top hinge was, which is too high to strike down on.  If you place the fork of the halligan under the bottom of the middle hinge the adz end will be roughly where the bottom hinge is which leaves only about a foot between the adz and the ground.  This is not enough space to strike the adz with the required force to loosen or break the screws holding the hinge in place.  For the middle hinge the adz is placed on top of the top hinge and then struck with the axe by the striking firefighter at the direction of the halligan firefighter.

Once the hinge is loosened up then place the fork of the halligan over the hinge either from the bottom or the top with the bevel towards the door and pry up.  As with the top hinge this will usually pull the hinge about half way out.  Then you can flip the halligan over and place the concave side against the door to increase leverage and pry the hinge completely out.  Two down, one to go!

The bottom hinge (I think) is the easiest which is part of the reason it is saved until last.  Place the fork of the halligan over the top of the bottom hinge with the bevel side against the door.  The striking firefighter then hits the halligan with the axe at the direction of the halligan firefighter just as was done for the other hinges.  This is the most natural striking position so it is best saved until last when you are fatigued from striking and prying the other two hinges.  After the screws are loosened or broken pry down on the halligan to pull the hinge.

Just as with the top and middle hinge once the hinge is pulled half way out flip the halligan over concave side towards the door and pull the hinge completely out.  Now that all three hinges are pulled the job is not done!

Now you have to force the hinge side of the door just as you would the lock side of an outward opening door.  Normaly you would begin by setting your halligan six inches above or below the lock but in this case there is no lock so go six inches above or below where the middle hinge was.  Place the adz of the halligan against the crack between the door and the jam.  Then the striking firefighter hits the halligan in at the direction of the halligan firefighter until it hits the door stop.  You will know you hit the stop when the halligan stops moving and you should be able to hear the halligan deaden out when it hits the stop.  Next the halligan firefighter pries up and down with the halligan to crush the door a little bit.  Then the halligan firefighter pulls back (away from the door) on the halligan so the adz clears the door stop and the striking firefighter drives the halligan the rest of the way in.  Finally, pry out away from the door with the halligan to pry the door out of the frame.

Quite a few steps and a LOT of effort are required to perform this operation.  It is a valuable and basic tactic that can be done with hand tools and a little determination.  There are certainly other tools usually available on the fire ground that can make this operation faster and easier.  Knowing how to get the job done with basic tools and basic skills can never be over emphasized and will never fail you.

If you are prepared, you will be confident, and will do the job.

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