Truck Company Tips: Tip # 8: Breaching a Wall

Michael M. Dugan details the proper use of wall breaching which can be effective and successful if used correctly.


A child is trapped in an apartment that is on fire. You are a member of the team assigned to do the search. Your way into the fire apartment is blocked by fire. What options do you have? PhotO by Michael M. Dugan A firefighter drives a halligan tool through a wall to determine...


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A child is trapped in an apartment that is on fire. You are a member of the team assigned to do the search. Your way into the fire apartment is blocked by fire. What options do you have?

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PhotO by Michael M. Dugan
A firefighter drives a halligan tool through a wall to determine what is on the other side. If the tool makes it through, then a second hole should be made.

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PhotO by Michael M. Dugan
The firefighter going through the wall breach is sitting and turning to allow his shoulder to get through the hole. He can then just drop to the floor and use his arm to pull the rest of his body through. Notice that the tool is placed in the room he is entering.

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PhotO by Michael M. Dugan
A firefighter who is first through the wall assists his partner to get all the way through the hole in the wall.

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PhotO by Michael M. Dugan
A firefighter attempts to get through an opening in a wall. Notice all the utilities above his head that can entangle him.

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PhotO by Michael M. Dugan
A firefighter in a training scenario gets his shoulders through the wall. The member is following a hoseline with a hood on over his facepiece. This can be done in a vacant building or training mock-up made at the firehouse.

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PhotO by Michael M. Dugan
The firefighter now has his shoulder through the wall and is using his arms to pull himself through the opening.

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PhotO by Michael M. Dugan
Firefighters practicing a wall breach at a vacant building found a brick chimney encased within the wall.

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PhotO by Michael M. Dugan
A firefighter drilling on wall breach is determining what technique he is going to use if he ever needs to get through a wall.

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PhotO by Michael M. Dugan
A hole was made in the wall with success. Another hole was made, the firefighter hit a solid object and heard a metal sound. The bathtub was on the other side of that particular wall.

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PhotO by Michael M. Dugan
As a last resort in an extreme emergency, a firefighter may use an SCBA bottle to breach a wall. If this is done, the facepiece must remain on and the member must hold the neck of the SCBA. This is done only if you have lost your tools and need to escape immediately.

You are searching a fire building on the floor above the fire and fire erupts from the fire floor and traps you in the room. The interior stairs are untenable and you need to get out. What are your options?

Breaching a wall is one way to save yourself and at the same time get out of trouble. It may also be an effective tactic to get to a person trapped by fire.

Wall breaching is a tactic that can be used with success, but must be done properly to be effective. The breach must be made below waist level to avoid crosspieces, or “cats” as they are sometimes called, being used to hold the wall together. These crosspieces will now be above the breach area.

The area that you choose as the breach area must be able to be breached. The best way to determine that is to drive a tool through the wall. This will let the firefighters breaching the wall determine if they can get through the wall. Some walls may be blocked on the other side by wainscoting, heavy furniture or appliances.

If the tool does not make it through the wall, then you must try a different place to get through the wall. If you succeed in driving the tool through the wall, then immediately make another hole in that bay to determine that this bay is a viable option. This will give you two openings to make sure you will get through the wall. Other things to look out for in the wall would be electrical outlets and heating/air conditioning ducts.

Tools that can be used to breach a wall are a halligan-type tool, an axe or a hook. The metal hook is the preferred hook, if you have it. A wooden hook will work, but you must use extreme caution to avoid breaking the wooden handle. Be aware of pulling so hard on the tool that you snap the handle. A halligan type of tool works the best.

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