Johnston-Grimes (IA)– Kicking Off A Long Week-End

WAKE-UP CALL. At around 12:30am on a Friday morning in July, the Johnston-Grimes (J-G) Metropolitan Fire Department, in suburban Des Moines, Iowa, kicked off the day with a multi-agency residential alarm. First arriving J-G Engine 381 was greeted by a rapidly spreading fire blowing out of the A/D corner, Division 1, of a two-story Colonial. The fire had already extended vertically to involve most of the 2nd Division. E381 quickly gained control of the fire on the lower level while Ladder 395 established multiple access points to the upper story and assumed general support duties.

TAKING ALONG THE “FAMILY.” This paved the way for 2nd due Engine 371 to make a successful push up the heavily involved stairs and, working from room-to-room, knock down fire in the sleeping areas and prevent extension into the attic. Earlier, Engine 371’s dash cam caught the company’s Lieutenant, Ty Wheeler, as the crew headed off for their assignment. If you look closely, you get a coarse-grained glimpse of his unusual tool set. It’s a surprisingly compact and manageable combination of a Hawk Tool, one of our “Classic” pattern Halligans, and a 3 pound hand sledge. A verbal description doesn’t suffice; fortunately there’s a more recent photo of this rig posted on Facebook, assembled as it would be carried– its included below, as is a sort of parts list for the project. For more background, you might also take a look at our blog on what we call the “Smith-It.”

J-G units were assisted by Urbandale, Polk City, Saylor Township, and Dallas Center units.

Does the World Need Another Version of the Halligan? We Do– The MalvenWorks “All-American”

“200-PROOF FUNCTIONALITY.” MalvenWorks is celebrating the new year, 2021, with the introduction of our third Halligan bar configuration– the “All-American” (All-Am). Actually, we’ve been working toward this goal since the day we finalized the purchase of the Aazel company, in 2018. In most respects the project is less the development of a new design than the continued evolution of an old one. Consistent with our philosophy, it’s not a radical design, but rather a subtle refinement of the things that Halligan bars in general (and ours in particular) have always done well. But, we’ve added a little more– a few new features that further concentrate the functional purity of the Halligan.

“ALL-AMERICAN” HALLIGAN— MalvenWorks’ new All-American (All-Am) Halligan is available in both mirror-polished** and bead-blasted matt finishes and in 24,” 27,” 30″ (the most popular), and 36″ lengths. **NOTE: We provide the best possible polished finish, from Henry’s Polishing in Los Angeles, at our cost– $115. Users may achieve similar results by securing their own local polisher. Remember, both of the above bars are identical except that one has been polished already, the other is waiting until later.
OTHER MALVENWORKS ENTRY BARS— In addition to the “All-Am” bar, our line of entry tools includes (from top to bottom) the “Hayward Claw” tool and our “Monster” and “Classic” versions of the Halligan bar.

Our tool designs emphasize creativity– not just ours, but also the user’s. We want to develop versatile tools that give firefighters options– ways of using their ingenuity to overcome the challenges they encounter, whether they’re “routine” or totally unimaginable. That has involved a lot of individuals and groups. First, our work is [obviously] founded on, and indebted to, the original tool design genius of FDNY Deputy Chief Hugh Halligan. At the other end of the spectrum, we have also drawn heavily on the creativity and ingenuity of countless individual firefighters and the widely used ideas that have come out of their field-driven, backroom experimentation.

Last, but not least, we gratefully acknowledge all those friends and co-workers who have contributed to this project– formally and informally– during our years of experience with predecessors Iowa American Firefighting Equipment, the Aazel Company, and more recently MalvenWorks. They, most of all inspired the goal of creating tools (in this case, a new version of the Halligan) that encourage spontaneous creative problem-solving under the most trying of circumstances

THE DESIGN PROCESS. How do we hope to maximize the functionality of our tools and capitalize on the creative ingenuity of their users? We start with a detailed functional dissection of fire service challenges, especially those that Halligan-like tools have historically addressed. First we payed particular attention to our own proprietary designs and design details that already have a proven track record.

A. THE FORKS. A good example of a proven performer would be the forks of all MalvenWorks entry bars. Since their design and performance has been favorably received in field emergency applications and training alike, the new All-Am design will also share this features popular component. Its attributes include:

  1. Square Shoulders. Precision-fabricated square, flat, durable surfaces for driving in close quarters (this is a favorite detail of Halligan “tuners,” but our Aazel predecessors were the first manufacturers to include them in their production Halligan bars). And, shaft above the fork shourlders is perfectly free of irregularities that might prevent completion of a full, solid strike.
  2. Bold Depth Cues. Clearly-defined depth indicators that can be seen under low-light conditions and felt through fire gloves (again, although firefighters have long added them to their personal tools (we did), Aazel was the first to incorporate them into production manufacturer).
  3. Functionally-Gapped Tines. A time-tested gap in the forks that fit over standard doorknob hardware for their removal and mates perfectly with other Halligan forks and most axes, even unmodified axes (again, our predecessors were among the earliest producers to open-up the forks to accommodate these functions). The gap in the forks also nests snugly with our line of fire hooks, for convenient carry in the field.
  4. “Perfect” Fork Geometry. Slim, uniformly curved, incredibly smooth forks that slip in and defeat the barriers that defeat other Halligans. Ask around; there’s nothing better.
  5. Sophisticated Production Methods & Metallurgy. Investment-cast, precipitation hardened stainless steel fabrication– it is an expensive combination of military/aerospace metallurgy and painstaking attention to detail.

B. THE ADZE. Clearly, the most prominent characteristic of the new “All-American” (All-Am) Halligan is its curved adze. Despite its simplicity, this version brings some new thinking to the tool:

  1. Narrow, Refined Leading Edge. On most Halligans, the leading edge of the adze is formed by a “bevel” (a sharpened, chisel-like angle) ramping up to a relatively thick adze. The bevel helps reduce the friction drag of the adze when it is driven, But, a normal bevel still introduces more resistance than the flatter portion of the adze beyond it. By contrast, the hardness and toughness of the All-Am’s metallurgy allows the leading edge of the adze to be reduced to 3/32” thickness, virtually eliminating the need for a conventional bevel. From its front edge to its base, the All-Am’s adze is one smooth, uninterrupted surface.
  2. Bold, Wedge-Shaped Cross-Section. Most variations of the Halligan bar rely on some semblance of a wedge-shaped fork to separate materials and assemblies as it is driven. The All-Am boldly applies this logic to the design of the adze, as well. But, it’s not “sorta’” tapered; its fully invested. Its taper smoothly expands the gap, bit-by-bit, with every fraction of an inch of penetration– from 1/16th to a full 1-1/8”– rapidly spreading the gap with every strike
  3. Fluid, Curved Cross-Section. Every slight change of direction, every imperfection in a surface is drag. break or change in a surface is a source of resistance. Close your eyes and run your fingers over our forcing surfaces– you’ll feel nothing but smooth, unbroken flow– right out of the box! And that’s just the beginning. The All-Am’s “perfect” curved adze geometry maximizes the benefits of a “walking fulcrum,” i.e., a fulcrum that gradually moves as the adze rolls, giving limited lift/spread but excellent initial mechanical advantage ( >50:1) in the early stages of the pry, then gradually, as the resistance in the assemble being forced  diminishes, mechanical advantage diminishes and lift increases to its full 5”.
  4. Centering “Nick.” Another new feature of the All-Am’s adze is a sharpened, one-sided notch or “nick” in the center of the adze. It works a bit like a mini-“A” tool. When positioned on angular and contoured surfaces it keeps the adze in place so that when struck, it directs the force of each blow exactly where it is needed. Uses include: a) Cutting Sheet Metal,such as car body panels, garage door panels, metal building cladding, metal storage units, expanded metal lath found in some plaster work, etc.. b) “Grubbing Out” Door Hardware and Locks— Using the nick to position the adze on the edge of the “rose” (cowl at the base of a doorknob or cylinder lock) or “escutcheon” plate (larger flat metal plate) of a mortised lock or latch set, allows for sound, repeated strikes to pull them loose, so they can be pried apart; c) Breaking Bolts and Other Fasteners— Brackets holding door bars, security bars on windows, and other security devices are often connected with mild steel bolts. Using the nick to maintain the alignment of the adze on fasteners often makes it possible to cut or break them with a few concentrated strikes from a hammer; d) Simpifying Common Operations— The provision of a nick in the leading edge of the adze also enhances manual operations that might otherwise tempt the removal of gloves, such as pulling/pushing common hinge pins, manipulating louvers in HVAC grilles, removing broken or loose appliance and/or vehicle trim and parts, etc.
  5. Details That Facilitate Forcing Outward-Swinging Doors. For outward swinging doors, the subtle inner curvature of the adze, the 1/16” leading edge, and just a hint of a bevel at the tip, minimize resistance when navigating around doorstops. They also minimize the problem of “skinning” the inner door facing. And especially for a curved adze design, the tip of the adze is well suited to insertion from a variety of angles.
  6. Details That Facilitate Forcing Inward-Swinging Doors. Although others will use “gapping” and other terms for it, here, we will use the term “camming” to describe pushing a door inward by gradually enlarging the spreading force in the space between the door and its stop– like a cam.  The All-Am’s adze has been well refined for use with this method. Again, the slender leading edge of the adze slides easily into gaps other tools who have to be driven to fill. Once inserted in the gap, several factors collectively optimize the cam action of as technique: a) Flared Shape— Since the shape of the adze flares out ¼” from its root to its leading edge, the inner-most surface of the adze is most likely to wedge in firmly; b) Sharp Inner Edge— In camming, the doorstop is normally more fixed and stable than the door being pushed. So, the All-Am’s adze is designed to dig the adze firmly into the stop and slide along the door to make the spread. While all other edges on the All-Am are radiused slightly for more comfortable handling, the last 2” of the inner edge of the adze are left relatively sharp, allowing it to dig into the doorstop and hold; c) Perpendicular Alignment of the Adze— Ideally, during a camming spread, the adze should rotate on an axis parallel to the original face of the door– counterintuitively, that means that the adze surface should not necessarily be square with the shaft of the Halligan but rather square with the fork end of the bar that is swinging in an arc while forcing the door. Otherwise, rotation of the fork will tend to pull the adze out of the gap, rather than stabilize it,
  7. Facilitating Other Uses. If a firefighter is going to carry a Halligan bar, they should be able to count on it for more than just forcible entry– especially overhaul. The curve of the All-Am’s adze creates a shallow hook (like a narrow garden hoe). It is deep enough to balanced and sharp enough to pierce walls, floors, and ceilings, and its surface-area is meaty enough to surround, hold, and pull all types of construction materials and assemblies. These qualities can also be of value in rescue situations where digging and excavation are required.
SHEET-METAL CUTTING WITH THE “CENTERING NICK.” Frederick County (MD) Firefighter Robert James using the All-Am’s “nick” to cut automotive sheet-metal. (Video by Robert James)

C. “CHISEL” PIKE. A second distinctive feature of the new All-Am is its “pike” (some might call it the “horn,” “spike,” etc.). It’s a simple component, but it has been given new, previously untapped, functionality:

  1. Rectangular Cross-Section. The All-Am’s pike has roughly the same length, curvature and proportions as our other bars. But, unlike all other Halligans, which have a round or roundish, horn-like form that performs only as a punch, the All-Am takes a unique, new, proprietary approach– along its length, its shape morphs from a traditional round cross-section base to a thin rectangular form. This simple change adds terrific function to the pike without sacrificing its existing utility. It evolves from being merely a punch to being a multifunctional tool– most notably: a) Mini Adze with Mega-Mechanical Advantage— The cam-like shape of the chisel pike allows it to be used like a miniature Halligan adze. It doesn’t offer much lift height, but provides a huge mechanical advantage (over 80:1 versus 15:1, or less, for the standard adze). Uses would include breaking loose and/or spreading extremely tight assemblies (forcing a tight door, window, access panel, etc., pulling the anchor bolts of barred windows and doors, security gates, spreading mechanisms of entrapment sufficiently to free hands, lifting more formidable mechanisms of entrapment enough to create a gap for insertion of heavier for hydraulic/pneumatics spreaders, etc.; b) an attachment point for adaptors to drive rotary tools such as sockets, drills, mini-augers, etc.
  2. Chisel Tip. The flattened rectangular tip is finished with a sharpened mini-chisel. This sharpened edge allows it to: a) Cut behind and through parts and materials in tight spaces; b) Pry and Separate— Efficiently remove or separate, tight-fitting metal fasteners, plates, hardware and assemblies, burrow in around carriage bolt heads (e.g., barred doors) to provide more access to their heads, etc.; and serve as c) Tool of Opportunity— The addition of shape to the horn also gives it more functional potential as a tool of opportunity—i.e., use as a spontaneous possible solution to challenges that come up, such as driving into a cylinder lock to rotate or otherwise remove its core; use of its screwdriver-like shape to activate or manipulate latch/deadbolt hardware as part of a thru-the-lock effort; facilitating efforts to defeat car trunk and hood latches, etc.
THE “CHISEL PIKE”— Allows the pike to be used as a “tool,” a miniature adze, with limited lift but lots of mechanical advantage. It can fit (or be driven) into tight spaces to start spreads that the adze could neither penetrate nor spread.

D. MALLET. Although its easy to overlook (and isn’t often thought of as a “tool component” when it is considered), the rectilinear root of the adze end (the area connecting the adze and pike) as, in fact, an important striking tool and a surface to be struck. In the All-Am, its edges have been cleaned up and squared up to provide:

  1. “Hammer” Surfaces for Striking. The adze end of the bar provides three different surfaces that can be slid, swung or struck to impact and drive other tools or objects. All of them are free from obstruction by other parts. All three surfaces have square corners that are perfect for driving the similarly-squared shoulders of another Halligan’s forks.
  2. Clean, Clear “Anvil-Like” Strikable Surfaces. The surfaces needed to drive the adze, pike and forks are all perfectly flat, free of obstructions, and perpendicular to the axis of the feature they are intended to drive.
  3. “Battering Ram” Functionality. Forcible entry takes many different forms. To enhance use of the bar as a “battering ram,” the outer surface of the All-Am’s adze curves back and away from the end of the shaft, allowing the adze-end to deliver a clean, on-center striking blow.
MALVENWORKS “ALL-AMERICAN” HALLIGAN— Ready for anything, everything, and more.
(photo by St. Paul, MN. Fire Captain Jon Hall)

OVERALL? Pricey? Yes. But, look carefully and consider the metallurgy, the attention to detail in manufacture, the refined, pre-“tuned” design. Or, ask anyone who has actually had an opportunity to compare; in terms of precision, functionality, and durability, nothing else really comes close. If it were your bar, you’d accept nothing less.

AVAILABILITY. At present we are stocking the All-American Halligan pattern in the most popular length of 30”, as well as 24,” 27,” and 36” lengths. Bars are available in a fully polished version, and they are beautiful! But, we don’t encourage your purchasing them polished from us: a) We will have very few in stock (they are currently out-of-stock), so there may be a 90 day wait, and b) it is somewhat expensive– we use only Henry’s of Los Angeles to do the polishing; they do a beautiful job(!!!), but it adds a $115 (at last check). upcharge (the price increase only adds what Henry’s actually charges us). Buy a standard matt-finished bar (they all start out the same, as matt-finished bars) and polish it yourself or have a local source do the polishing.

SOURCES– THE R.A.G.E. COMPANY.  Tim Brozoskie, owner of the Rapid Action Gear & Equipment Company (R.A.G.E), is the longest-standing dealer– and Master Distributor– of MalvenWorks tools. Tim is very active in both the career and volunteer segments of the fire service. He is a day-to-day user of our tools and has been a valued consultant from the very beginning, You won’t find a person more knowledgable of the MalvenWorks line. All purchase inquiries concerning MalvenWorks tools will be directed to him

RAGE Company

If you’re looking for field-tested fire and rescue gear, RAGE is always a good place to start.  Tim is, himself, a career Firefighter/Emergency Vehicle Driver with Baltimore City Fire Department’s very busy Rescue 1, and a volunteer Captain with the Mt. Carmel Area Rescue Squad, Mt. Carmel, PA. His store specializes in tools and equipment designed and manufactured by firefighters and made in the United States– tools he’s used, himself.

Indianapolis (IN)– Putting Some Miles on in Indy

INDIANAPOLIS FIRE DEPARTMENT STATION 13. “Central Station”– as the label suggests, Indianapolis Station 13 is right in the center of the city– literally and figuratively. Its stable includes Engine 13, Ladder 13, Squad 13, Tactical 13, and Battalion 7. Collectively, they are part of IFD’s Southern Hazmat Task Force and first-due for much of downtown. And, along with Station 19 (1004 South White River Parkway), Station 13 is closest to Conseco Fieldhouse, Lucas Oil Stadium, and the Indiana Conventional Center, home of the annual Fire Department Instructor’s Conference. including the Indiana Convention Center and Lucas Oil Stadium, home of the Fire Department Instructor’s Conference (FDIC). So, if you’ve ever gone station hopping at FDIC, there’s a good chance you’ve been there.

Indy Fire Station 13

A BUSY SEPTEMBER FOR LADDER 13. Its always fun to see photos of our tools at work in the field. So, we were glad to get a note from ever-vigilant Nic Hutchinson of the Johnston-Grimes (IA) Metropolitan Fire Department, calling our attention to a Facebook photo posted by the Indianapolis Fire Department. Since early in 2020, IFD’s Ladder 13 has had a Hawk/Raptor in their toolbox. Nic noticed that it had been getting some use.

On September 27 (2020), at around 2:30 AM units were called out for multiple reports of heavy fire showing in a vacant commercial building on Oliver Ave. Stations 19 and 13 were assigned on the alarm, including Ladder 13. First arriving Engine 19 found a well-involved masonry commercial building well-involved on the corner. Fire was spreading rapidly from a single-story extension on the rear into the upper level of the two-story main building. A fully engulfed pick-up truck was parked adjacent to open window and door openings on the “B” side of the building.

The fire building was pretty well known in the “Valley” neighborhood. It was the home of Hoffa’s Silver Cafe, a hoppin’ place in its time. The owner was a cousin of Jimmy Hoffa, a leader of the Teamsters union in the 50s and 60s, and the subject of considerable media attention in the 1970s. The cafe was a short walk from a former General Motors assembly plant, a popular afternoon and evening meeting place for the unions, other workers in the area, and the neighborhood.

Indy Hoffa's Mkg.Entry w:Hawk**

The fire was brought under control in 30 minutes. But, there was plenty of overhaul left to do before the last units could take up. The fire was under investigation.

LADDER 13, A BIT EARLIER IN THE MONTH. Looking through other IFD posts for September, it was obvious that they’d had a busy month. The summer was punctuated by a number of suspicious fires in vacant buildings. Among them was a vacant structure at 346 Miley Ave., midday on Sept. 24th. Arriving units, including Ladder 13, found heavy smoke showing from a single-story, wood-frame dwelling with a tight “D” side exposure. Crews quickly gained access to the tightly boarded structure, bringing the fire under control in 10 minutes.

Sept. 24th -1

Screen Shot 2020-10-06 at 10.24.14 PM
Ladder 13’s Hawk Tool was among the array of hand and power tools on-hand for dealing with the tightly buttoned-up Miley St. dwelling.

FIRE HAMMER WORKING, TOO. Also among the less common tools at work in Indy during this busy summer was my personal every-day-carry,  fire officer Nick Childer’s Fire Hammer. For me, it’s proven to be a good complement to the more familiar choices that show up on every job. It’s a great “O”-tool, and a personal overall favorite.

Nashville (TN)– Rescue 13 Still Reeling ‘Em In

GETTIN’ THE WORK. During the past year, we’ve gotten a bunch of shots of Hawk Tools in action with the Squaddies at Nashville’s busy Rescue 13. This sharp, close-in photo is one of the most recent, sent by R13’s Phillip Wade. The Hawk’s keeping its head down, mid-way, at shoulder height between the two central firefighters.

Screen Shot 2020-10-25 at 9.33.47 PM

THE BIGGER PICTURE. On a day-to-day basis, there’s a tendency to think of things within the microscopic perspective of our own local operations. Phillip Wade’s Facebook posts from earlier in October serve as a humbling reminder of the much broader regional and national contributions made by members of the fire service. He and others from Nashville’s USAR Task Force 2, joined Louisiana’s USAR contingent and other teams from Tennessee, Florida, Indiana, Missouri, Ohio, and Texas in responding to Hurricane Delta. Collectively, well over 500 structural collapse and water search and rescue specialists responded. Hats off to all involved– the symbol of U.S. preparedness and coordinated response.


We’ve Got Nevada

SIGNATURE TOOLS. Obviously, when you’re thinking and talking about fires and firefighting, you’re likely to cover a wide swath of topics before you trickle down to hand tools. That’s fair. To paraphrase a common (but unfortunate) declaration, “fire hand tools don’t put out fires– people do.” But, if the discussion does get around to tools, it’s interesting to note how certain tools have come to be emblematic of a specific high visibility fire department– and vise versa. It’s hard to think about LAFD roof operations, for example, without imagining a set of their signature “Rubbish” hooks and Collins Seagrave-inspired Fire Axe Inc. pick head axes (and Stihl saws, of course).

MW LAFD Claw San Pedro Apt. Fire w Rescue 02:23:20-2

For years, Chicago has been well-known for teaming up its unique hooks and unusually deep-bladed pickhead axes (top left photo, above (a more typical example is seen in the center photo by popular photographer Tim Olk). And, closing your eyes, it’s hard to form an image of Boston operations without including a haystack of ground ladders and a collection of “Rakes” (bottom photo, above). You wouldn’t be alone if you did; despite its simple quirkiness their hook (rake?) has developed a strong, enthusiastic following throughout the U.S. (right photo, above). Finally, few tools are more popular or more strongly associated with their home department than the “New York Roof Hook,” except, perhaps, the hallowed Halligan bar, itself.

MALVENWORKS– WE HAVE NEVADA. On the other hand, there are literally thousands of fire service tools that are sprinkled throughout the fire service, but without any place, in particular, to call “home.” Some designs may still be waiting for their first sale. Bummer. As illustrated by a set of older generation of tools (in the photo below), MalvenWorks can at least lay claim to Nevada as a longtime, heavy user and patron of our tools.

DID I MENTION THAT’S NEVADA, IOWA? Yeah, Nevada, Iowa– our local fire department. So when you think of Malven hooks and entry bars, think of Nevada (and selected others– maybe yours?). We appreciate every one of you.

Wichita (KS)– Shift Change

“ARMED” AND READY. Long-time supporter Isaac Frazier sent along a couple of shots taken at a recent Wichita job, a 2nd alarm, strongly wind-driven fire in a dwelling. The city’s two rescue squads were well represented (and well-armed!), as can be seen in these photos, taken at what almost looks like “shift-change.” The crew stayed busy, opening up both the roof and the interior at different points during the operation.

A team comprised of Rescue 1 and Rescue 2 squadmen, rotating out after a round of interior overhaul work. Obviously, nobody arrived or departed empty-handed.

GOING ARMED. Apparently, the fire department itself has also been busy. Not the least of their efforts has been nailing-down a pair of the nicest rescue rigs of the year. First Rescue 2, then, more recently, Rescue 1 took delivery of well-matched Pierce Velocity heavy-duty walk-ins. Although seemingly identical externally, under the skin, each has been innovatively tailored to meet its unique operational priorities– hazardous materials in R-2’s case and technical rescue for R-1. But, nothing’s been overlooked in preparing both units to handle their “bread-and-butter” assignments– structure fires.

In the photo at right, below, is what Isaac Frazier describes as the “Stairway to Heaven.” It’s a pretty persuasive label; below the squad bench are 28′ extension and 16′ roof ladders. On top are a narrow Duo-Safety “Fresno” attic extension ladder and (behind the narrow lip) a tray for frequently used tools and equipment. The rear riding positions are further forward. (photos of the “heavenly” rigs are by Tyler Silvest).

Admittedly, riding into battle in style is nothing new. The Vikings were doing it in the late 8th century. But, it’s doubtful that the Vikings arrived trained and equipped to do as much damage.

Hawk Works– Dealing with WALLS

WHERE’D THAT COME FROM? Did you ever return from a call and think, “Man, things really “clicked” on that one.” Where’s all that click-ness come from? Who knows, for sure? But, it’s undoubtedly bits of careful observation, in-depth investigation, a couple of “war stories,” daydreaming, and luck– plus a big dose of first-hand practical experience. Sorry, it probably won’t have anything at all to do with this content. But, maybe this’ll help keep you distracted until its time for something “good” to happen.

Screen shot 2020-06-30 at 11.37.10 PM

This post is a continuation of an earlier effort to highlight some uses of the Hawk tool system. Some of the applications listed were planned in the original design, but others were discovered via a great deal of field experience, by the designer and contributed by many others. The end results are a little like baseball cards; we’ve tried to summarize several very specific uses of the Hawk/Raptor combination in a concise, standardized way, by listing: 1) the name of the tool head being addressed, 2) the specific feature (subpart) of the tool that is being highlighted, 3) what the tool is being used on (e.g., a part of a structure), 4) a photo of the tool posed as though in use, and 5) a brief explanation. The sketch at the right provides some “anatomical” terms to aid in understanding. In this post a few videos have been included to clarify key points, especially to describe uses involving a sequence of actions.

AGGRESSIVE PROPERTY CONSERVATION. But, before continuing, this seems like as good a time as any to mention a key consideration that drove the original Hawk Tool development process–  the concept of “aggressive property conservation.” That’s the idea that fire tools need to be designed and refined so as to enable a broad spectrum of tasks. At one extreme, they have to afford firefighters aggressive, no-holds-barred methods of quickly and decisively (aggressively) finding, confining and extinguishing of fire– even at the risk of significant property damage. But, on the other hand, their fire service tools must also allow crews to make a seamless transition to the most precise and conservative methods of terminating incidents that keep damage amazingly proportional to the original threat(s).

DEALING WITH WALLS. When we hear of “overhaul,” we almost always imagine it in terms of finding fire, especially by opening up walls, ceilings, and (maybe to a little lesser extent) floors. So, it seemed like some attention should be given to walls before going much farther. And, any discussion of overhauling of walls, presents an ideal opportunity to elaborate on that spectrum of fireground activities that bridges the gulf between aggressive threat control and reasoned property conservation.

AGGRESSIVE OVERHAUL. Sometimes (frequently!) the best way of protecting property is to control or eliminate the threat– put out the fire, ASAP. The Hawk tool head’s longitudinal and transverse blades and its wedge tip are devoted to opening thing’s up, exposing the fire, without a lot of messing around. They’re hefty, unbreakable, and never need attention– always ready for immediate piercing, striking, chopping, and breaking.  The wedge tip is the tool’s primary piercing component. It can be driven effortlessly through all the normal wall surfacing materials or used to efficiently split or break other materials that stop most hooks.  Hawk’s rear-facing adze can also be an aggressive forcible entry and demolition tool.

An essential prerequisite of an “aggressive” fire operation is that it is sustainable– more of a marathon than a sprint. So, in tool use, as in other respects, operations and tactics need to be as refined, efficient, and free of redundancy as possible. The following illustrate examples or operationally efficient uses of the Hawk Tool.

One subtle tool characteristic that can have a significant impact on the time required required to complete a task is its “sequential operational logic.” For example, rather than nibbling at the surface with a series of pulls, in the sequence shown above, the desired opening is created using a series of “perforations” and relatively shallow “incisions” to weaken the perimeter of the area. The final opening is made by pulling and breaking the resulting flap. This often speeds the process and minimizes energy expenditure. The method is equally applicable to wall and ceiling openings, of a variety of sizes, large and small.

Another example is using tools in a logical, sequential way that minimizes significant changes of tools or re-orientations of a single tool. This idea is well illustrated in the bathroom video below. In sequence, the firefighter a) uses the Wedge Tip to break up some glazed ceramic tile, b) uses a combination of the Adze and the Wedge Tip to peel off some of the remaining tile, c) uses the Wedge Tip to break through the plaster backing, d) uses the Transverse Blade to enlarge the opening and e) uses the Adze to drag out big sections of insulation. All of these tasks are completed, in sequence, with virtually no interuption in the action– all of these tool functions interact logically.

AGGRESSIVE PROPERTY CONSERVATION. But, “aggressive” fire operations aren’t limited to the urgent, highly destructive, aspects of fire protection. There comes a point in every operation where concern for the immediate, dramatic, effects of a primary threat starts to be replaced by the more subtle, but sometimes equally important, focus on the effects of secondary threats, such as water damage, structural instability, or even excessive and unnecessary damage caused by on-going operations. For example, in the illustration below, knowing that the overhaul tool will fit fully into the 3-1/2″ depth of the stud space may favorably influence its use, allowing firefighters to easily pull off the front surface, on one side of a partition, avoiding the unnecessary effort and damage of having to pull both surfaces at once.

Screen shot 2020-06-30 at 9.53.03 PM

Crews have to avoid being timid or neurotic about property damage at times when such hesitancy is likely to result in even more fire damage. However, in later-stage, “mop-up” situations where the priorities give greater emphasis to controlling property damage, the appropriate use of smaller inspection holes (as illustrated above) is often a better alternative than more destructive, energy wasting and costly wholesale removal of wall surfaces.

KNOW YOUR “TOOLS.” In conclusion, take some time to consider situations you’re likely to encounter that have something to do with walls. Think o specific tasks you may have to perform. Then, take a look at your tools. What can they do to contribute to safe, timely, and efficient completion of those tasks?


A “Ringer” for the Iowa-American “Stinger”

LIEUTENANT MICHAEL SKIDMORE, MONTGOMERY COUNTY (MD). A couple of months ago, a friend sent this shot of a day-to-day “worker” tool used by Lieutenant Michael K. Skidmore, Junior of the Montgomery County (MD) Fire & Rescue Services. At the time of the photo, Lt. Skidmore was a fairly recent promotion and was rotating among several different stations. That definitely keeps a new officer hopping. Nevertheless, his tool looks as bright and ready-to-go as the day it was assembled.

MW Hx Skidmore Mont. Co
Lt. Michael Skidmore’s “Stinger” tool. Photo courtesy of Robert “RJ” James.

HAWK TOOLS– OLD AND NEW. But, it’s actually been around awhile. For people who are only familiar with the latest MalvenWorks version of this hook, it probably looks like just another well-personalized example of the Hawk/Raptor combination. But, those who know a little more about its history will recognize right away that this is an earlier example of the tool when it was produced by forerunner Iowa-American Firefighting Equipment (IA-AM). The tip-off is the handle; the yellow solid fiberglass handle stock, orange silicone grip (under a more recent spiral wrap), and the long stainless steel sleeve where the fiberglass connects to the Hawk head, are telltale signs of early IA-AM production. Currently, the most commonly specified handle material is tubular steel (1″ O.D. chrome-molybdenum), normally dark gray in color.

There are also several, more subtle differences between the original Hawk Tool (the Iowa-American “Phase V,” as its been called) and the current MalvenWorks model. Most notably, the actual shape of the Hawk head has undergone some refinement. On the new version: a) the width of the tip and “wedge” is a little larger, b) the curved lower edge, the “longitudinal blade” has a more pronounced curve or “belly,” and c) the steel used is investment cast 17-4 stainless, versus the more malleable, sand-cast 316 stainless used in the originals (see photo comparison, below).

Side-by-side comparison of two 36″ Hawks. The top version is the original “Stinger” tool– both end pieces were silicone-cast stainless, joined by a solid fiberglass handle. The lower tool is the current MalvenWorks version with a tubular chrome-molybdenum handle.

THE “STINGER” TOOL. Lt. Skidmore’s version of the Hawk also has the distinction of being the first model to introduce the “Raptor” tool end (the end that strongly resembles the shape of the Boston Rake tool).  Surprisingly, though, despite their tendency to give seemingly every single prototype step in the development a new tool its own unique name and entry in the catalog, Iowa-American never gave this one any name, at all. Instead, it was simply described, anonymously, as part of the tool they called the “Stinger.”

Stinger End 2
The new unnamed tool end introduced as part of IA-AM’s “Stinger” tool in the late ’80s. The tool didn’t get its own name, “Raptor,” until its reintroduction by Aazel, MalvenWorks’ predecessor, in 2011.

The new part was intended to be an alternative to the D-handle– a sort of “half-D”– that would add prying utility to any of the hooks in IA-AM’s line. At the time, the popularity of the Halligan bar and New York Roof hook (both double-ended tools) was well established. But, this was many months before the avalanche of other double-ended tool combinations started to show up. So, to demonstrate the potential safety, functionality, and appeal of such an option, a mock-up of the newly designed end was assembled with a Hawk Tool head on the other end of a 36″ fiberglass handle.

This complete package was presented, fairly informally, to IA-AM’s owner, Marty Vitale (even though only the new hook end was under consideration). Marty said it reminded him of a scorpion’s tail and suggested calling it the “Stinger.” The resemblance was pretty obvious, so the label seemed like a good fit. When this end option was under development, it was always envisioned as a handle option for all of IA-AM’s hooks (although nobody actually asked). So, it was assumed that Marty’s “Stinger” label applied specifically to the new part. Surprise! The new catalog came out and the Stinger label was applied to the whole tool, describing it vaguely as a combination of a Hawk hook on one end and some anonymous, unnamed thing on the other.

With no part name or number to refer to, it’s no surprise that the new component wasn’t ordered in combination with any hook other than the Hawk. Similarly, even though it was said to be available in “alternate handle lengths to suit your specific needs,” the catalog introduced it as a 36″ tool. With no provision made for specifying another length, virtually all of the Stingers were produced as 36-inchers. It was over 20 years before this “Jake Rake”-like end got its own unique identity (the “Raptor” end), combined use with a variety of other components, and fans of its own.

MW Stinger 2

A RINGER” FOR THE “STINGER.” I’m always happy to see photos of predecessor Iowa-American’s tools, especially my own designs, and particularly those that are still out there in the field, “working.”

But, this one was also a reminder of a funny story related to the introduction of the Stinger. As you can probably imagine, the fire equipment industry has its own share of camaraderie and rivalries amongst its members. Of course, one regular subject of interaction between manufacturers of fire tools is intellectual property– who designed that (is it a copy of something we did?), where did they get the idea (from us?), is it protected by patent or copyright (who owns the rights to it?), is it public domain (can we do something with it?), etc.? Naturally, Iowa-American came in for its share of this kind of scrutiny. One such skirmish occurred shortly after IA-AM’s introduction of the “Stinger.” A short time later, a witty competitor answered with a new product of their own, the “Ringer.”

MW Ringer
Both the Stinger and the Ringer proved to be fairly popular combinations. We’ll leave the Stinger/Ringer comparison to readers. But, a quick check in the dictionary suggests that there’s some interesting karma in play, here.

CONCLUSION. This was an interesting “tipping point” in fire tool design. Before the Stinger, most overhaul tools stuck with a pretty narrow range of end options: a) some of the longer hooks had only their primary tool on one end, with nothing on the other, b) other long-handled tools had ram caps, gas and/or water shut-offs, c) a few– most notably the New York Roof hook– had a prying appendage of some type on the bottom end, and d) a variety of long and short tools could be secured with a D-handle. However, the Stinger and the Ringer, which it inspired, called attention to the potential value of multi-ended tools. The floodgates have opened, greatly expanding the range of multi-functional tools available, and energizing a fresh generation of creative tool designers and innovative new tools.