JD DuCharme, Firefighter, Beaver Dam (WI) Fire Department

NICE LOOKIN’ TOOL TEAM.  A while back, we got a note from Southern Wisconsin firefighter JD DuCharme with a shot of his well-put-together tool team, a Lone Star Axe “Piglet” and a five-foot Hawk Versatool (Hawk head with a Raptor end).

JD DuCharme Hawk:Piglet EDC

OBVIOUSLY, NOT JUST FOR LOOKS.  A short time later, JD sent a couple of helmet cam snaps of his tools getting into mischief at a residential job. At first glance, the Hawk Tool isn’t all that obvious in the bottom shot. JD’s ex-military.  I think he must have his hook wrapped in some kind of high-tech “worker” camo scheme, or something? It blends right in.

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THE PIG AND HAWK: A POPULAR COMBO. JD is good comapny– two other of our favorite heavy hitters have commented on frequent use of the Hawk/Pig tool team– Wichita’s Isaac Frazier and Baltimore’s Tim Brozoskie.

Nevada (IA) Community Fire Department

THE NEVADA COMMUNITY FIRE DEPARTMENT.  Having worked for 35 years with the Nevada Community Fire Department (NCFD), Nevada, Iowa, it would be unthinkable to consider anyplace else the birthplace of the Hawk Tool.  The department has tolerated an infusion of Hawk Tools (and other experimental equipment) on its apparatus for years.  And, Its members have effectively become Malvenworks’ primary research and development team.

Nevada is the county seat for Story County, approximately 30 miles north (on Interstate 35) and 7 miles east (on US Highway 30) of Des Moines, Iowa’s capital.  NCFD  serves a suburban/rural fire district of approximately 144 square miles and a population of approximately 9000.  Within its boundaries are 12 miles of Interstate 35 (connecting Kansas City, MO and Minneapolis/St.Paul, MN), 12 miles of US Highway 30 and the junction of Union Pacific Railroad’s former Rock Island North/South “Spine Line,” and its busy double-track, East/West “Overland Route” mainline, roughly 45 linear miles of the busiest rail line in Iowa.

EVOLUTION OF THE DEPARTMENT.  Iowa was designated as a separate territory in 1838 and became the 29th state in 1846.  Nevada was first platted in 1853. Its fire department was established in 1860, a year before the start of the American Civil War (as a point of reference, the Iowa City Fire Department– arguably the oldest in the state– was authorized in 1842).

The department is now part of Nevada’s Department of Public Safety and is, itself, comprised of two divisions, Fire Protection (which includes selected technical rescue incidents, Haz-Mat first response, and initial response to environmental emergencies) and EMS (which performs medical first responder services).  It is staffed by a career Chief (Director of Fire and EMS) and a nominal membership of 50 volunteers, most of whom are cross-trained for both functions. The agency responds to approximately 700 calls a year, roughly 70% of which are calls for emergency medical services.

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CURRENT APPARATUS.  The department currently operates a Sutphen 70′ “Mini-Tower” and two Spartan engines– one a Spartan/Toyne engine-tank, the other a new Spartan/Toyne rescue engine.  Nevada also houses two tankers, two 4WD Ford wildland units, and a medium-duty 4WD Ford rescue squad.  For several years, the department operated a heavy rescue squad staffed primarily by EMS providers.  However, over the years the extrication function has shifted to fire personnel. Now both of the departments engines are equipped for extrication service, providing greater flexibility in responding to rescue calls and freeing more EMS responders for medical service at motor vehicle and technical rescue incidents.

Nevada Apparatus
Nevada’s principal apparatus, counterclockwise from left center: Truck 110 (70′ Sutphen Tower), Rescue Engine 210 (1500/750 Spartan/Toyne), Engine 310 (1250/1000 Spartan Toyne), Colo Fire & Rescue’s Rescue Pumper 904 (background).

HAND TOOLS & EQUIPMENT.  Nevada has, for many years, carried a generous inventory of hand tools on its front-line apparatus.  And, the equipment carried by major apparatus has tended to be fairly uniform in type, number, and mounting locations.  For example, the cabs of each of the engines and the ladder truck carry two Hawk Tools, two Halligan bars, a flathead axe, a pickhead axe and two Clemens hooks.  The Hawk Tools are mounted by door on the officer’s side of the rear riding compartment as shown in the photos below (upper right and bottom): one is mounted by itself, the other is mated with a Halligan bar. The second Halligan bar is mounted with a flathead (conventional “married set” fashion).  Each paired set of tools (Hawk/Halligan and Flathead/Halligan) is secured in a PAC Irons-Lok.  On the opposite side of the riding compartment are the pickhead axe and a “closet hook-length” Clemens hook.

Elsewhere, in one or more tool compartments (example below, in top, left photo), these units carry a fairly standard complement of chainsaws, positive pressure ventilation blowers, forcible entry “married sets,” thermal imagers and a Pulaski axe, longer Clemens hooks, an Odd-job hook (also called a Universal hook), wrecking bars, crowbars of varying lengths, and bolt cutters.

BIRTH OF THE HAWK TOOL.  The Hawk Tool was most directly influenced by the development and delivery of “hands-on” courses on truck company operations.  However, the truck company course, itself, was a direct result of working with the Nevada Fire Department.  The department has long embodied a very active group of volunteer firefighters and emergency medical responders, outstanding community support and a moderate– but persistent and varied– volume of emergency calls.  The   most direct inspiration for the Hawk Tool’s development was the department’s long-standing tradition of “truck work.”  Its Hook and Ladder Company No. 1 was organized in 1913, making it one of the very earliest “truck company” operations in the Midwest.

All-in-all, the Hawk would be hard-pressed to find a better, more innovative, place to call home.

Philly Units Battle the Heat Inside & Out

THIS WAS NO SUMMER VACATION.  While some of us were trying to find a cool, shaded spot to spend the week-end, Philadelphia Firefighters spent their Sunday afternoon battling hoarding conditions in a front bedroom fire and a heat index of 106 outside.  Given the crazy heat, it was obviously no walk-in-the-park.  Among the participants was Squad 72 that came in on the SOC assignment, parking next to the 2nd Alarmers.  As can be seen, both crews were well-armed. The Squaddies kept a Halligan, a maul and a couple of medium hooks handy.  The 2nd Alarmers fought the heat with a generous inventory of bottled water, energy drinks and cold towels (which, before the day was over were probably among everyone’s tools of choice.

All photos from the Philadelphia Second Alarm Association’s Facebook site.

Using the “Adze” of the Hawk Head

Screen shot 2019-06-10 Hawk Peeling 8.13.15 AM
Carpeting and other bulky finish flooring materials can often be sliced into smaller, more easily managed sections using the sharp cross-cutting rib on the back of the adze.

PEELING-UP FINISHED FLOORING. As used here, peeling refers to pulling apart various layers of an assembly. A commonly encountered example is separating finish flooring materials (carpeting, sheet flooring materials, resilient tiles, ceramic tiles, slate, etc.) from their structural subflooring. These materials are generally secured in some manner.  The seams are so narrow and tight, that an overhaul tool’s prying/pulling end(s) often can’t get between them with sufficient purchase to separate them.

Fitting into tight spaces is one of the Hawk head’s strengths. The durable edge-holding of its special stainless steel alloy takes and holds whatever edge the user wants– anything from blunt to literally razor sharp.

The angle of the adze was chosen to allow use of the adze for peeling from virtually any position, standing, kneeling, or even prone.  Once  materials begin to separate, the user has several options:

  • Break flooring materials into small individual pieces (using the Hawk’s chisel tip or transverse blade) followed by a series of peeling and breaking/tearing strokes– this is often best when dealing with brittle materials such as ceramic tile, tightly glued resilient or carpet tile, or thin or patterned hardwood floors.
  • Take the material up as a single piece, by rotating the tool head 180 degrees and using the transverse blade to drag or roll the material out of the way.
  • Move the material in small sections by using the adze and the sharp cross-cutting rib inside it to slice cohesive materials such as carpeting into smaller, more manageable parts (see photo above).

PULLING TRIM (AT WAIST-LEVEL OR ABOVE). As used here, peeling refers to pulling apart various layers of an assembly. A commonly encountered example is separating finish flooring materials (carpeting, sheet flooring materials, resilient tiles, ceramic tiles, slate, etc.) from their structural subflooring. These materials are generally secured in som

Jimmy Butler, EVO, District of Columbia Fire Department, Washington, DC; Captain, Hyattsville Volunteer Fire Department, Hyattsville, MD

THE D.C. CONNECTION. Veteran Hawk-stalker Randy Jones called to advise that he’d spotted a Hawk Tool in a photo on DCFD Squad 3’s Facebook page of a DC apartment house job. A couple of photos pictured a firefighter staged on a fire escape landing with a Hawk, preparing for overhaul. But, it wasn’t clear what other companies had been on the scene. Actually, this was Randy’s second website spotting of a Hawk in DC– he’d seen an earlier showed a couple of Hawk’s perched under the tiller seat of a DCFD tractor-trailer aerial.  But, again, the unit wasn’t identifiable.  Hmmm?

But, there aren’t a lot of Hawk Tools in DC, and I knew long-time Hawk user Jimmy Butler was working at DC’s Truck 8. So, it seemed like a good possibility that Truck 8 was present at one or both of the sightings.  A few months later, longtime buddy Andy Levy and I were delivering tools nearby and decided to give Engine 33/Truck 8 a call on the off-chance that Jimmy was working. He was. So, we stopped by for a visit.

It had been a while since I’d seen Jimmy. He’s well acquainted with the Hawk Tool but hadn’t seen or used the production version of the recently introduced “Hallux” end. So, we left a 5′ Hawk/Hallus combination with him to get his feedback on that combination.

DC’s numerous tractor-trailer aerials have are designed with lots of convenient space for tools and equipment. And, it’s well utilized. But, like any other busy metro fire company, Truck 8’s assigned piece has to go out of service from time-to-time for maintenance. That means the crew gets to refamiliarize themselves with some of its more specialized tools by transferring it to a temporary reserve truck. Such was the case on the day of our visit; reserve Truck 42 was filling in for Truck 8. But, you’d never know it by looking in its compartments. It still carried a variety of resources that would be the envy of most of the Midwestern fire departments I’m familiar with.

As it turned out, we had a pretty short visit. The 3rd Battalion is a busy corner of DC and Truck 8 was in and out of the station 3 times during the brief time we were there. But, having missed them completely on previous occasions, I guess we were lucky to catch Jimmy and company in quarters at all. Life in the District.

As a footnote, if you go looking for shots of the 3rd Battalion in action, one of the best places to look is on the “DCFD Rescue 3” Facebook page. Unless they’re already out on assignment, Rescue 3 runs with every working structure assignment. Thanks to them and their contributors for some of the photos used here.

THE HYATTSVILLE (MD) CONNECTION. Actually, Jimmy has been acquainted with the Hawk Tool about as long as anyone in the area. Hyattsville Volunteer Fire Department in Prince Georges County (just North of DC) was one of the first stations to get the original prototypes, back in the late 80s and early 90s. They’ve had them on their trucks and squads ever since.

Virtually since its founding, HVFD has been a special operation. “Graduates” of Hyattsville benefit from at least three distinctive departmental characteristics:

  1. A Melting-Pot of Fire Service Culture. They have a live-in program that gives qualified volunteers from diverse locations a chance to explore active, responsible participation in the fire service without jeopardizing the benefits of a quality formal education. Jimmy started as a member of HVFD’s “bunkroom gang” (members who lived in the station while working or attending school) in the late 2000s while completing a degree in Criminology and Criminal Justice at the University of Maryland. Whether living in the station or not, this program fosters and solidifies life-long friendships and public service networks.
  2. Some of the Best Experience Anywhere. Members are expected to complete a rigorous schedule of training requirements and take advantage of numerous other training and public service opportunities. These have prepared many of HVFD’s volunteer members, like Jimmy, for service as valued career members of some of America’s premier fire departments.
  3. A Self-Sustaining Tradition of Excellence. Finally, Hyattsville never seems to have EX-members, in the usual sense of the word– their slogan might as well be “Once at Hyattsville, always from and of Hyattsville.” HVFD regularly celebrates the achievements of its “graduates” and their alumni continue to return the investment with dividends. Jimmy’s a good example. Years after joining the District of Columbia, he continues to serve as an active Hyattsville volunteer Captain and leader. He is, among other things, one of HVFD’s most active instructors on specialized equipment and practices. 

So, one of Hyattsville’s strongest contributions to its members is the opportunity to benefit from– and then participate in– a self-sustaining tradition of excellence.

THE AVOCA (PA) CONNECTION. It is clear from a review of other background information that his roots in the fire service were already well grounded when he applied for the live-in program at Hyattsvijlle. He started out in the fire service as a junior member of the Avoca Fire Department, Luzerne County, PA, Station 112. Like Hyattsville’s, Avoca’s Facebook page periodically recognizes Jimmy’s achievements elsewhere and remarks on his continued return visits to provide training for the current troops.

CLOSE OF A CHAPTER, BUT THE STORY CONTINUES. This distinctive cycle of professional growth, team-building and replenishment came together in an especially meaningful way for HVFD members and long-time buddies. Riding with Hyattsville the first week in May 2018, Jimmy worked a fire with HVFD Chief Dave “DH” Hang. There had been a long dry spell since the long-time friends ran a fire together and this may have been the last fire DH ran in their first-due before his retirement in September after 13 years as Chief. It was well documented and will be a memorable event for all involved.

We’ve valued Jimmy as a Veteran Falconer– a long-time user and critic of the Hawk Tool. But, far more importantly, he exemplifies the critical value of experiential continuity– that cycle of “learning from,” and “giving back to,” our vast fire service community. Nice knowin’ ya’.

Philadelphia (PA)– On the Streets With Philly Squad 72

THE “SQUAD 72” HOOK.  All the special ops units in Philadelphia– Squads and Rescue– have a small variety of Hawk Versa-Tool combinations (Hawk head with Raptor end)– a 36″ or 42″ (generally for the officer), 60,” and 72.” Over the summer this shot appeared among Andrew Brassard’s “forcethedoor” Instagram collection.  It’s a great photo taken by Nozzle Nut Photography of Philly Squad 72’s Firefighter Al Mayor with one of the 72 inchers. It’s been suggested that we refer to the six-footer as the “Squad 72 Hook.” Seems reasonable.

MW FF Al Mayor 72'2 D Platoon

Squad 72 was the first Philly unit to start using the Hawk Tool. And, with their recent acquisition of a Hawk/Hallux “Roofman” combination, they definitely have one of largest Hawk inventories in the Northeast. Not that they were lacking hardware, to begin with. Squad 72A, the unit’s follow-up rig is packed full of special equipment, including the locally fashioned tool used for spreading the tracks of roll-up security gates to gain entry, as shown at right, above.

It looks like 2018 might have been a pretty good year for 72s. They moved back into their original quarters with Medic 24 at 12th and Loudon, after some much-needed remodeling.  During the renovation, they’d been wedged in with Engine 63 (13th & Oak Lane). And, their move back to Loudon Street corresponded pretty closely with the delivery of their much anticipated new rig, a 2018 Spartan Metro Star. Nice piece.

PHILADELPHIA: A FIRE PHOTO-RICH CITY. If you’re looking for a city covered by rich, detailed, engaging fire photography, Philadelphia is the place. The two photographers represented here are some of the best. For lots of Philly video and action photos, check out Aaron Mott Photography and Videography, who captured Squad 72s rig, above. Among other places, you’ll find him on Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/AaronMottEmergencyResponseVideos

Nozzle Nut Photography’s Facebook page carries albums of fires from all over the Pennsylvania and Maryland area. Particularly unique are periodic photo collections of old neglected, always unique, rigs in sections called “Apparatus Found ‘Along the Way’. “

Baltimore (MD)– BCFD Rescue 1 Celebrating the New Year

PARTY ANIMALS. New year’s day, 2019, had just begun when Rescue 1 commemorated the occasion with a first alarm assignment to Box 8-81: fire on the first floor of a string of row houses.  Rescueman Jerry Smith took his 5′ “Hawk Roofman” / “Monster” Halligan bar combo to the job, as shown in the left photo, below.  He’s been using this set for several months, but is still making periodic refinements to get it zeroed in.

TWEAKING THE HAWK FOR EVERYDAY CARRY. The Hawk was designed with nesting with a Halligan in mind: the forks of most popular Halligans can be notched firmly onto the adze of the Hawk head– or onto the pike of the Raptor end, if present. If the former method is used, most of the weight of the package is at the Hawk-head-forward end, which most people prefer (this is good since it results in most of the length of the set behind the firefighter, rather than projecting out in front.

But, as Jerry points out, it also leaves the Halligan in a forks-forward orientation, which many (including Jerry) would consider to be an “upside down” orientation.  He wants to be able to separate the two tools without having to reverse the direction of the Halligan in order to lead with the adze/pike end.  So, rather than sliding the fork of the Hallie onto the adze of the Hawk, he’s welded a length of chain to the Hawk’s chrome moly handle as an alternative seat for the forks, a method used by some firefighters (including on FDNY) to improve the carry of their Halligans with a New York Roof hook. It should be noted that in doing this, great skill and care is required to avoid creating a weak spot in the tubular handle at the point of attachment– especially with the Hawk’s super stiff chrome moly tubing.

But, Jerry’s done it right– not just technically, but operationally, as well. His Halligan is supported not only by the fork notched onto the welded ring, but also (as you can see in the photo), the adze/pike end is cradled in and above the notch in the front of the Hawk head. The two are firmly joined when the set is held even slightly upright, but they slide easily apart when the top end of the set is lowered. And, they reconnect easily (again, without having to reverse the Hallie), even in zero visibility.

Baltimore’s busy Rescue 1’s crew has done a lot of fine-tuning of the Hawk evolutions– they’ve been hunting fire with Hawks for years. They were the first rig to carry the tool in Baltimore and have a pretty varied inventory of them to choose from. They’re  as strong a group of veteran “falconers” as you’ll find anywhere. Good troops– and busy.

KEEP YOUR EYES ON “JAWS.” As is often the case, sincere thanks are due to “Jaws” Jaworski for keepin’ an eye on Balto and his photo-coverage of this job, in particular. If you like active metro fire photos (duh.), keep an eye on his stuff. “Stanley Jaworski’s photos” on Facebook is a good place to start; the color shots above are from his Box 8-81 post on flickr.

Adam Neff, Battalion Chief, Nixa Fire Protection District, Nixa, MO

Neff CombHE’S EVERYWHERE. If you periodically survey fire service content on Facebook, you’ve probably seen some of Adam Neff’s “likes” and comments on posts by your favorite posters and bloggers. His interests are broad and deep. But, his active presence ranges well beyond the social media.  When it comes to fire service instruction, joining high profile classes, and promoting fire service causes, he seems to have his hands in just about everything, without leaving out his family– that’s some trick!

NIXA FIRE PROTECTION DISTRICT. Adam has grown up in the Nixa Fire Protection District (NFPD), located in Nixa, Missouri, directly south of Springfield and part of the Springfield Metropolitan Area.  The primarily rural service was organized as a fire district in 1986 with 15 volunteers. It now covers 45 square miles and a population of over 21,000 from 5 fire stations. Like many other suburban departments, NFPD has undergone remarkably rapid growth in the past 50 years. It has strong, goal-directed leadership.  Looking at photos of the department’s facilities and resources, and comparing them with the multi-station career-staffed operation of today, it is clear that the department has applied a great deal of planning, creativity, and dedication to the process.

SERVICE & GROWTH. Adam first came to our attention when he placed the first order for a Malven Hawk Tool after transfer of its production to MalvenWorks. Looking at his background, its clear that his career has closely paralleled the district’s growth, moving rapidly through the ranks to his current position of Battalion Chief. He has been a more-or-less continuous student of fire protection and public service. He is regularly enrolled in local, regional and national conferences, workshops and courses. He completed and was awarded the Commission on Professional Credentialing’s Chief Fire Officer certification. He is equally involved as a fire service instruction, himself, including his work as a member of the well-established Ozark Mountain F.O.O.L.S. group.

NFPD maintains a very active community outreach and fire prevention education program. Their definition of “community” obviously reaches far beyond its city limits and district boundaries. A good example is its work on behalf of the National Fallen Firefighters Foundation. Adam had just joined the Nixa department when America experienced the 9/11 tragedy. Nevertheless, over a decade later, in 2014, he served as a principal coordinator for the Springfield area’s 9/11 Memorial Stair Climb.  This event was facilitated by the Ozark Mountain F.O.O.L.S., LOCAL 152 of the International Association of Firefighters, and the Nixa Fire Protection District. It attracted 230 climbers and raised $8,000 for the foundation. 

ADAM.  Seem’s like he’s everywhere.

Johnston (IA)– Two Safe After Overnight Residential Fire

TWO SAFE AFTER NIGHTTIME RESIDENTIAL FIRE. Along with mutual aid companies, firefighters from the Johnston Grimes Metropolitan Fire Department in suburban Des Moines, Iowa stopped a heavily-involved early-morning garage fire at 6116 Northwest 61st Avenue, in Johnston. Crews found flames showing well above the roof when they arrived shortly after 4:45 a.m., in April of 2018. The two occupants of the house at the time of the fire managed to escape without injury.

There was significant structural involvement in the attached garage. A well coordinated, focused attack held damage to a minimum in the remainder of the dwelling– primarily smoke and moisture penetration.  Nevertheless, an unusually heavy fuel-loading of stored materials in and above the garage, and the labor-intensive chore of breaking up those irregular bundles of combustibles from below kept crews engaged well into the morning.

A MODEL OF INNOVATIVE, SYSTEMATIC CONSOLIDATION. Johnston Grimes Metro stands as an outstanding model of far-sighted planning for future fire and emergency services in the face of rapid urban growth. They are an unusually effective integration of the two previously separate suburban fire departments of Johnston and Grimes, Iowa. Formally unified by the two cities in 2016, the resulting agency covers 30 square miles in two counties, from three stations, with a staff of over 30 full-time and 30 part-time officers and emergency responders. Their organizational vision statement calls for the timely expansion of existing services to meet the needs of their evolving communities– services based on industry best practices, research-based training and operations, and a data-driven decision-making process.

Adam Tendall, Future Assistant Chief, Nevada Community Fire Department, Nevada, IA

A CLOSER LOOK. Our own Nevada (Iowa) Community Fire Department is heavily saturated with Hawk tools. So, many, if not most, of its members are actually pretty experienced Hawk tool users. But, a note from one of our members made me aware that the department has some Hawk tool enthusiast that may be flying below our radar. One example is Adam Tendall, who’s currently a foot or two below the radar.  He’s the son of a multi-generational fire family and Adam could be headed in that direction, as well. We’ll let his dad, Brad’s nomination letter speak for itself:

Brad Tendall's Adam Action Shots
Love it when the troops choose the Hawk to equip their “action shots.” Adam’s ready for anything. In the lower right shot he’s got a good grip on one of my very favorite tools– the Ardis Tool II. I don’t go anywhere without an Ardis Tool.  Seriously, there is rarely a call that this super pocketable, versatile overhaul tool doesn’t come into play in some way or another (see video on YouTube or contact: Ardis Tool Company LLC in Newtown, CT – (203) 426-3315).  Oh, yea, and in the left shot, the future A/C rounds out his kit with a lap-full of Hawk tool.  A true veteran falconer.

ONE OF THOSE FIRE FAMILIES. Adam comes by his tool interests pretty naturally. Maybe genetically? As is obvious in the photos below, the entire family is hard-bitten fire types. Adam’s grandfather, Roger, spent several years as an Assistant Fire Chief in Nevada. His uncle, Jamie (top left in the top left photo) is an experienced fire apparatus driver-operator. His dad, Brad, is a fire captain  As they grew up, Chief Tendall’s family spent a LOT of time at the fire station. As kid’s, Jamie and Brad always knew where the newest tools were mounted and were ready to jump on a rig and go.  Similarly, today, as pictured below, when Adam’s dad and his mom, Jessica (a very active EMT), walk into the fire station, Adam and his brother Ty are already “geared up!!” In virtually every fire station in America, this long-standing tradition continues– the tools and rigs may differ from place-to-place, but the next generation is ready for action.

Here they come.