A Forcible-Entry Homerun: The one-person “baseball swing” simplifies entry on inward-swinging doors

A Forcible-Entry Homerun

The one-person “baseball swing” simplifies entry on inward-swinging doors
By Homer Robertson

If you read this column regularly, you know that we focus on the basics of firefighting and rescue ops. Being able to do the basics well is the trademark of great firefighters and great fire departments.

But let’s be realistic: For a training officer or company officer to successfully keep people motivated to train, you have to mix a little “new” in with the basics. And when I learn a new tip or technique, I’m excited to share it with someone else.

This month’s Quick Drill covers the “baseball swing,” a simple, one-person forcible-entry technique that works great on lot of residential inward-swinging doors.

Video courtesy Craig Walker/www.theinforcer.com

A Two-Person Job
The single-family residential structure and the multi-family apartment make up the bulk of our firefighting work these days. Incidents in these structures are usually room-and-contents fires that can be handled with some good old-fashioned aggressive firefighting. But before you can get a handline on the seat of the fire, you must make quick entry.

Sometimes personnel on the first handline have to handle the task of getting into the structure; sometimes a member of the truck company is assigned the task of forcing entry for the attack team.

Whoever has the door-entry assignment must carry the right tools with them to get the job done right, and every fire department has weapons of choice based on their response area characteristics. One of the most commonly used tools is a “set of “irons”—a Halligan bar and a flat-head axe or maul paired together to form a powerful forcible- entry duo. The problem with using the irons: To use them to their full potential, you need two firefighters, one to hold and manipulate the Halligan bar (the barman), and the other to strike with the flat-head axe as commanded by the barman.

But two firefighters aren’t always assigned to forcible entry; in the first few minutes of an attack, the firefighter assigned the forcible entry duties may have to force the door without help from other crewmembers as they’re performing other tasks, like stretching the hoseline or securing utilities.

When using the baseball swing, drive the pike of the Halligan into the wooden doorframe. For left-hand swinging doors, the adz will be pointed down (top photo). For right-hand swinging doors, the adz will be up, or at 12-o’clock (bottom photo). Note: The ideal placement for the Halligan is above the locks, but as these photos show, with the baseball swing technique you might not achieve ideal accurate placement. Photos courtesy Craig Walker

Why Not Just Kick It In?
This is about the time that a lot of folks are going to say, “We just kick the front door in, or someone puts a shoulder to it.” I know that’s fun and macho; kicking in a door definitely gives you a rush.

But there are several problems with doing that: First, kicking in a door can injure your knees, ankles or back. Second, when you kick in the door, you often lose control of it. You’ve essentially created a ventilation opening, which can lead to an uncontrolled venting of heat, fire gases and even flame. Remember: Those fire gases and heat follow the path of least resistance, which many times is the opening you just created. If you’ve ever been run off the porch of a house that’s on fire because you lost control of the door, you know what I’m talking about.

The final downfall of kicking in the door is public perception. You don’t see a journeyman carpenter trying to cut boards by chopping them. Of course not; they use the right tools for the job—and so should we.

The Baseball Swing
The “baseball swing” is a Halligan technique that’s performed by one firefighter, without another person having to use the maul. It works best on inward-swinging doors that are set in wooden door frames. Here’s how it works:

1. Position yourself so you have a clear swing at the doorframe, making sure that no one is standing behind you that you could hit on the back swing.
2. Swing the Halligan like you would a baseball bat [Homer: Addition OK?] and drive the pike end of the Halligan into the wooden doorframe just high enough so the adz end lines up with any locks on the door.
3. By driving the pike into the doorframe, you achieve a pivot point from which you can use the adz to push against the door.
4. On right-hand swinging doors, the adz will be pointed up. The length of the bar will give you leverage as you push down on the bar, thereby using the adz to push on the door, forcing it inward.
5. On a left-hand swinging door, the adz will be pointed down as you swing, or in the 12-o’clock position, forcing the pike into the doorframe. After you set the pike, you again use the leverage of the bar, but this time you push the bar up, forcing the adz against the door and defeating the locks.

The baseball swing allows you to force the door with a certain amount of control using only one firefighter. It’s a down-and-dirty trick-of-the-trade that’s much safer than attempting to kick doors open.

Captain Homer Robertson has been involved in the fire service since 1978, starting as a volunteer with the Granbury (Texas) Fire Department, of which he is a life member. He has served with the Fort Worth Fire Department since 1985 and is currently in charge of the fire equipment division, which includes the apparatus fleet.

Copyright © Elsevier Inc., a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.

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Comment by Charlie Lee on July 21, 2010 at 5:36pm
It's good to see a Pro Bar being used in the second picture. The first pic's Paratech/Hooligan is garbage for forcing entry.
On a side note, I think the maul is overkill for this article's application. The baseball swing is usually being used for wood frame doors. I'm open to new ideas, so I'm gonna check out the Detroit link you provided.
Comment by Sam Ritch on July 21, 2010 at 12:44pm
Obviously some people did not learn work smarter, not harder. That's ok though, if everyone worked smarter, there would be no need for the fire department...right. After all, we do make a living off of other people's ignornant ways. And by the way, if you swing like a man, you won't need 8lbs to get you in. That is why it's called the "baseball" swing.
Comment by FETC on July 20, 2010 at 8:31am
Well my company carries a sledge hammer with a halligan married together with a carrying strap. Its called "Heavy Irons". So grow up yourself Sam.... wait I should say man up and carry something that I have seen used to not only breech doors, but the newer 1" thick heavy drywall, reinforced windows, concrete block wall, brick wall and even open a roof.

Don't believe me? The Detroit Truck Video on the video section the guy on the roof is carrying a FN sledge hammer.


So sticking to the basics is OK but there are many ways to get the job done thinking outside the box. And yes sometimes that means carrying heavy tools, tools that may save you life.
Comment by Wes on July 19, 2010 at 11:23pm
Recently a friend told me a dreadful story. After a devastating fire in a nearby community recently took the lives of 6 this friend told me how he & his brother were volunteers in another community about 20 years ago. His brother was one of the first on scene of a residential fire with children entrapped. The brother kicked in the door and did the best search he could as fast as possible and did not find the child. The child was later found behind the door he kicked in. My friend tells me his brother lives with that thought every single day. I pass this on with the hope everyone thinks of the possibilities next time they head to the door with adrenaline pumping.

And yes exterior door installation instructions say to replace 1-3/4" screw on each hinge with longer; usually 2 1/2". I plan to try the maul for myself next time and see if it works with the longer screws. Excellent job.
Comment by Sam Ritch on July 19, 2010 at 7:04pm
So you want to carry an 8lb sledge around on the fire scene that is good by opening a door only? Or you want to have a multipurpose tool that is light too? Why does everyone have to find negativity in every new idea. Grow up.
Comment by Jack/dt on July 19, 2010 at 2:11pm
I'm going to disagree with you on that. It's much harder to access the hinges as they are sandwiched between the door and the jamb, and it would be as much effort per hinge as it is for a deadbolt. Also, if you attack the hinge side, once that last hinge is freed your door is just going to want to fall inward and you have no means to control the opening.

Even IF the point is to take the door, I still think it's easier to go for the deadbolt. And I've hung enough doors to know how to take one off. I've screwed the hinge to the door with 2 1/2" screws, and the hinge to the jamb with 3 1/2" screws. My doors don't like to come off easily.
Comment by FETC on July 19, 2010 at 10:41am
Mix something new with the old. LOL

One man forceable entry. How about an 8lb sledge on the hinge side. It is far quicker than this article suggests. Far less hardware to deal with. No bolt / striker plate, no deadbolts with 1/2" to 3/4" throw. Just some little 3/4" screws..... this technique I share is far from being new as well.


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