The first consideration is making a hole in the wall so that the studs are exposed. You want to begin this task on your knees. You are going to have to crawl through this hole that you make, so it is pointless to begin making this hole standing up.
In the last article we discussed some of the reasons that a person or crew would want to breach a wall. Also, we talked about some of the obstacles that you can expect to encounter when breaching a wall.
So let's move forward to the actual act of breaching a wall and making your way through it. The first consideration is making a hole in the wall so that the studs are exposed. You want to begin this task on your knees. You are going to have to crawl through this hole that you make, so it is pointless to begin making this hole standing up, unless you are making some sort of inspection hole.
Clear either the sheetrock or lath and plaster from the side that you are working from. If the material covering the wall is lath and plaster, you can knock a hole in the wall about half way up on the area that you are going to be working with, stick either an axe handle or the forked end of a halligan in the wall and pull the tool towards you. The motion will resemble pulling the handle of a slot machine, without the expectation of any money of course. This will remove a large section of the lath in one motion. If you are working with sheetrock, you can either punch several holes in different locations and then focus your efforts in between the holes that were created so that large sections of sheetrock are removed. Or you can simply start from the top and work your way down clearing sections of sheetrock as you go.
Common Mistakes During Wall Breach Operations
Two common mistakes are generally made when clearing out the wall covering: first is that the hole is not started high enough, which will cause your bottle to get caught on the top side of the hole when you are trying to get through and the other is not clearing out the jagged edges of your newly created holes. The latter will also cause your air bottle to get caught in any number of locations. Taking the time to start high enough and clearing out the edges of your hole will save you time and energy when you begin to make your way through the opening. Generally if you start making the hole in the wall at head height, while in the kneeling position, you should be alright.
I have heard discussions and have seen people try different methods of breaking out sheetrock. I have heard that you can sit with your back to a wall and use your bottle to break out the sheetrock. After one fire in New York, crews that were in the room that the firefighters were trying to get out of stated that all they found was indentions in the wall where the bottle of a SCBA had impacted the wall. Yet the sheetrock stayed intact. I have also heard that you can take your pack off and use it as a battering ram. This would be a bad idea due to the fact that any kind of swinging motion might pull your mask off, not to mention the damage that can be done to the pack, causing it to malfunction when you need it the most.
At some of the Firehouse Expositions, I have witnessed students use their feet in a mule-type kick or in a forward-type kicking motion. This method will work but is not as effective as using your tools and you will exhaust yourself much quicker. Using your hands to punch out sheetrock is another method. Once again, this method will work but is much slower and more exhausting. If you are caught without any tools and need to breach a wall, keep in mind that there are studs located in every wall. Do not ever punch a wall; use your hand in a banging motion where the side of the hand impacts the wall first. This will keep you from breaking your hand and rendering it useless. Once you have a hole established, then you can begin tearing away the sheetrock. All of these questionable methods can be avoided if you just bring a tool with you whenever you enter a structure that is on fire.