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Thread: Opening Asphalt Shingle Roof With Axe - Blunt End vs. Blade End

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    Default Opening Asphalt Shingle Roof With Axe - Blunt End vs. Blade End

    There is somewhat of a debate emerging in my department on the most efficient way to manually ventilate an asphalt shingle roof with an axe at a house fire. The older guys (40 and up) think it's better to use the blade end to cut through the roof and the younger guys (under 40) seem to think that using the blunt end is a more proper use of the tool.

    What are your thoughts either way...


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    Forum Member conrad427's Avatar
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    I have never done it, but most of the training I have watched they use the blunt end or a maul.
    The fire service is about service to our fellow man.
    There is a trust that must not be broken and we are the keepers of that trust.
    Captain Dave LeBlanc

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    Time after time when we put people on roof mock-ups (usually OSB) and on acquired structures, the final answer is nearly to the man: blunt end.

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    FIREJAWZ,
    How high of a priority is it in your department to cut peak roof at a private dwelling fire?

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    Pretty high priority, sir. My department is in a midwestern rust belt town, with housing stock that is majority balloon frame construction (meaning structure fires get going quickly and engine guys on the interior really appreciate a timely vent). No truss roofing or OSB; were talking solid wood ridge lines and rafters. 50% of roofs have single layer shingles and the other half are multiple layers. NOTE: we almost never use power tools, just iron.
    Last edited by FIREJAWZ; 05-22-2013 at 07:49 PM.

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    It's pretty difficult to get an ADEQUATE sized opening in a peak roof PD. If staffing is good I believe the best use of manpower is aggressive interior ops (line advancement and search for victims) combined with horizontal venting of windows coordinated with line advance. With proper staffing this can be accomplished before your roof cut is completed. If staffing is short I believe the best use of manpower is to concentrate on line advance and extinguishment. Firefighters in full PPE (SCBA, bunker gear, gloves, helmets, hoods) will not be burned by any steam produced.

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    Forum Member FWDbuff's Avatar
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    If there are two layers of shingles (which is acceptable per the IRC- the residential building code used by many municipalities) the blunt end may or may not work depending on the density/thickness and age of the shingles.
    "Loyalty Above all Else. Except Honor."

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    That's the beauty of a flathead axe, two choices on one tool. I'd have to side with the old guys on this one. You can go a lot faster with the chisel end than you can trying to smash your way through OSB or skip sheeting or a shake over shingle job with 1" skip. But on the other hand,sometimes you have to just truck ape up and break your way through.

    I have to ask, why no saws? If your attack crew wants a hole pretty fast, you can't beat a saw. That and I'd like to spend a minimal amount of time venting a balloon, then getting the heck off there.
    IAFF

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    The "old timers have proably delt more with 1x decking than OSB --osb -aka blandex will usually break pretty easy usually 1/2" plywood also , plywood 5/8" -3/4" is usually harder to break and sometimes needs the sharp end. And like FWD says -a nail over will sometimes" cushion" the decking and make it harder to break. Also believe it or not, I have seen a difference in 1x4 and 1x6 decking in whether it wil break or need to be cut. Pretty simple answer, try the flat, if it doesnt break , use the blade, also when cutting , try to cut near the rafter and cut the edge of the decking as opposed to chopping straight down.
    ?

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    and like snowball says, use a vent saw -We have had good luck with a cutters edge and a bullet chain, just stay away from the ethanol fuels, and we keep a can of carb cleaner for a quick rinse off of the tar.
    ?

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    Meh.

    And whatevs.
    "Be polite, be professional, but have a plan to kill everybody you meet.”
    --General James Mattis, USMC


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    And snowball , what do you mean by shake over shingle? Are you talking about putting 1Xs over an existing asphalt shingle roof?And then woden shakes ? I bet that would suck. Down here the big thing is to reroof with metal over the existing asphalt shingles, sometimes on 1X firring (AKA skip decking) and sometimes directly screwed to the shingles.
    Last edited by slackjawedyokel; 05-22-2013 at 10:42 PM.
    ?

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    Quote Originally Posted by snowball View Post
    I have to ask, why no saws? If your attack crew wants a hole pretty fast, you can't beat a saw. That and I'd like to spend a minimal amount of time venting a balloon, then getting the heck off there.
    Honestly, I'm not sure why we don't use saws. I've asked on a couple of occasions and received different answers. Was told that saws can fail, malfunction, whereas an axe works every time. Was also told "because that's the way we do things here." I'm still a probie, so I didn't press the issue. Mostly just curious about it like you guys

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    Forum Member MemphisE34a's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by captnjak View Post
    It's pretty difficult to get an ADEQUATE sized opening in a peak roof PD.
    Seriously?
    RK
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    Quote Originally Posted by slackjawedyokel View Post
    And snowball , what do you mean by shake over shingle? Are you talking about putting 1Xs over an existing asphalt shingle roof?And then woden shakes ? I bet that would suck? Down here the big thing is to reroof with metal over the existing asphalt shingles, sometimes on 1X firring (AKA skip decking) and sometimes directly screwed to the shingles.
    I've been on more than one that was rough hewn shake reroofed over saw cut shingle. I'm guessing that the roofer decided that the existing shingle surface was flat enough to shake over. Most of the ship sheeting under those is 1" pine and of course rough cut framing. Between the shake and shingle they rolled felt and the crickets and valley pans were newer galvanized, not hammered lead. I've also seen kinda what you're talking about where asphalt was rolled over shingle.

    One trend that I've noticed on a few attic fires now is that lazy roofers are cutting the oven vents down and roofing over the top of it.
    IAFF

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    The axe always starts. But that doesn't mean we don't try to start the saw!!!

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    Quote Originally Posted by MemphisE34a View Post
    Seriously?
    I'd say we could find a few thousand roofs that would beg to differ!
    "Be polite, be professional, but have a plan to kill everybody you meet.”
    --General James Mattis, USMC


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    Quote Originally Posted by MemphisE34a View Post
    Seriously?
    I don't dispute that you can get a good size opening on a roof. But there's a time factor involved. A typical PD fire can be knocked down and have searches (primary) done fairly quickly. Probably before your vent hole is accomplishing much.

    If there is so much fire that your engine is delayed in knocking it down, then what is your roof vent really accomplishing anyway?

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    Quote Originally Posted by captnjak View Post
    I don't dispute that you can get a good size opening on a roof. But there's a time factor involved. A typical PD fire can be knocked down and have searches (primary) done fairly quickly. Probably before your vent hole is accomplishing much.

    If there is so much fire that your engine is delayed in knocking it down, then what is your roof vent really accomplishing anyway?
    It will direct the spread of the fire. If a hole is directly above the fire, the chances of the fire travelling through the attic and spreading to other parts of the dwelling are significantly reduced. Having vertical ventilation also allows for better flow of smoke and heat from the fire resulting in a better atmosphere in the dwelling.
    .............................. ..at least that is what they teach in essentials classes and every other class I have taken.

    I am assuming that this is more than room and contents though. Otherwise, I will agree with you.

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    K12 all the way. Old rust belt city,ballon const. 3 or 4 layers and Lord knows what else has been nailed down over the years in the hood. Cutters edge has failed too many times for us, good light weight tool to cut the plywood off doors and windows of our vacants though.

    Two trucks per house fire,two guys off one truck to open a peaked roof if needed.

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