BY RAUL A. ANGULO
There are two things I love about the fire service. Well, there are many, but two of my favorites are the camaraderie that is developed across the country and firefighters who make their own tools. This story is about both.
I had to go to Texas for a wedding and decided to swing by and see the friends I made in Burleson, Texas. I was there about five years ago to write a story about a spectacular rescue they made on an 800-foot radio tower (“Stairway to Heaven,” Fire Engineering, September 2013). Firefighter Matt Moseley, one of the four rescuers at the time, is now Lieutenant Moseley; Lieutenant Jeremiah Lozier, the initial incident commander (IC) and co-author, is now Battalion Chief Lozier; and Battalion Chief Brent Batla is now Assistant Chief Batla—I love it! Anyway, I was speaking with Batla and he said, “Hey! You need to see this new tool I got for the guys. They call it the ‘Wrecking Ball’! In fact, they love this tool so much, they don’t even use the pike poles or the roof hooks anymore.” Well, being a truckie, I was intrigued; I had never heard of the Wrecking Ball. I asked if it was like a panestaker, and Batla said no. Then he dialed Station 2 on the speakerphone and said, “Watch this. Hey, Lieutenant Moseley, Chief Batla here. What would you say, engine or truck, is the favorite tool of choice for the members?” Moseley answered without hesitation, “Oh, that would be the Wrecking Ball.” I started to laugh and said, “OK, let’s drive over and take a look. I gotta see this.”
When we arrived at Station 2, Moseley and his crew had already pulled out the Wrecking Ball. Some of the guys call it “Wreckage by Ball,” and some of the B-Shifters call it the “Burleson Ball-Buster” and “Billy Baroo.” Too funny. What they were actually referring to was the T3 Tready Hook.
The T3 Tready Hook is a tubular steel shaft made of all steel materials. It has a four-inch hollow steel ball on one end and a solid ¼-inch steel plaster hook on the other. The ball and the hook are securely welded to the shaft, and the ends are designed for balance. It is a multipurpose tool that can be used for myriad firefighting tactics.
This tool is the first tool in the fire service specifically designed for “sounding” a roof or floor in front of the firefighter, increasing the “safety zone.” By using the weight of the ball at the end of the hook, the firefighter can sound a roof or floor out in front of him with a greater margin of safety. The T3 Tready Hook may allow you to reduce the number of tools needed for vertical ventilation on the roof. I know some departments use a sledgehammer for roof operations—in Seattle, Washington, we never did. But, the Tready Hook could double as a sledge and give you a couple more tactical advantages. Because of the short handles of axes and sledgehammers, sounding with these tools places the firefighter too close to the very place he is trying to avoid—a weakened roof deck. Sounding with a roof hook or rubbish hook provides more reach, but the end isn’t very heavy. You still have to bring the tool in close to get the strength and momentum to aggressively sound the roof. Using the weight of the ball on the T3 allows the firefighter to sound a little farther out and concentrates the force of the strike—and that may be all he needs.
The Tready Hook can also be used to louver and flip the louver cuts, but being only six feet long it may not be suitable to punch the ceilings in deep attics or cocklofts without the firefighter reaching down into the vent hole. If a ball of fire erupts there is no reaction time to get out of the way. The D-handle of a long pike pole or roof hook may still be needed to perform this task safely and successfully. However, if this is a flat roof or one with a shallow attic, the four-pound ball knocks a lot of gypsum board down from above. Since the ball has no edges, it allows for the hook to be pulled back up with ease without hanging up or catching on wires, duct work, narrow roof assemblies, or materials stored in the attic.
In vent-enter-isolate-search (VEIS) scenarios, the T3 Tready Hook can be used as a “break-and-rake” for the window. I’ve never heard this term before, but it works—in Texas, if there isn’t a name for a tool or a procedure, they’ll give it one. Once the window and sash have been cleared with the hook, the firefighter can use the ball end to sound the floor before entering the room. The firefighter can then slide the ball end into the room and leave the rake end hooked on the windowsill to provide an extended point of reference for the firefighter searching the room. Not a bad idea, but that leaves the firefighter without a tool to sweep the floor, so I’d wear an ax.
Irons are excellent tools when you have the staffing for techniques that require two firefighters, but in some small volunteer departments, forcible entry may be assigned to a single firefighter. The T3 Tready Hook can be used like a battering ram, and for most residential homes locked with a dead bolt, the “Wrecking Ball” tears it up without a problem. There’s enough room on the shaft for two firefighters to take a hold and double the force of the swing when used as a battering ram.
The ball end can be used to sound the floor over a basement or punch a quick inspection hole in a ceiling to check for fire above you while advancing the hoseline. The six-foot length is sufficient to check the overhead in many occupancies.
During a transitional fire attack, the ball can easily break a window to shoot water in and cool the interior. The ball end also works extremely well for punching holes in soffits large enough to push the rake end through, allowing firefighters to pull the entire eight-foot section of soffit down rather than small sections. This allows the nozzle access for indirect fire attack into an attic space.
The ball also makes a nice hole wide enough to stick a nozzle through a wall for an indirect attack into an adjacent room, leaving enough gypsum board in place to protect the firefighter.
The hook end of the T3 works extremely well when pulling down gypsum board because of the surface area of the head and solid steel teeth of the rake. The pike on the back of the rake can be used with the “shoelacing” technique to help pull large areas of gypsum board down at a time. It’s also strong enough to easily bust through ship lap sheathing. It creates a hole large enough to insert the rake end through, allowing the firefighter to pull down one- by four-inch lathing.
The tool is offered in four-, five-, and six-foot lengths. The six-foot tool weighs 12 pounds. It comes in seven colors: glossy black, maroon, red, green, neon yellow, orange, and pink. Since they all cost $200, I’d opt for the six-foot T3 Hook, since it gives you the most reach for the money.
Well, the Burleson members seemed pretty happy with it, and I wished I still had the opportunity to try it out in live-fire conditions, but those days are over for me. I asked Batla who makes the tool, and he said he thought it was a firefighter who worked for the Plano (TX) Fire Department, but he wasn’t sure. My next stop was to visit my dad and mom, who also live in Plano, so I decided to track this person down. I found him, and his name is Jeremy Treadway.
Treadway is a 14-year veteran of and firefighter with the Plano Fire Department. After his first three years assigned to an engine, he was transferred to Truck 5 on B Shift. He wanted to make his own tool for sounding the roof and for vertical ventilation. Treadway was taught to sound using a sledgehammer or an ax, but he always felt more comfortable if he had a little more reach. He realized early on that sounding with an ax or a sledgehammer placed him too close to a weakened roof. He was of the opinion that the fiberglass handles on roof hooks or pike poles did not give good and accurate “feedback” from the strike. Treadway says, “The fiberglass shafts are flexible and can bend, absorbing much of the impact. So, I prefer the rigidness of steel.”
One day he was out buying steel for another project and saw the round steel ball. He immediately recognized the value of having that welded on the end of a steel handle, and the idea was born. Treadway knew the steel ball would be the perfect concentration of power from a strike, similar to the reasoning a wrecking ball is used with a crane to knock down a concrete building. Also, a ball isn’t going to get hung up on wires, cables, duct work, and all the materials we currently get a pike pole and rubbish hook stuck in. A ball would slide right out. It would also be the perfect tool to strike a punch in gypsum board or any other materials used in wall construction. His other favorite tool was the hook, so he decided to put that head on the opposite side of the steel handle. He designed it for balance and reach. His personal tool was welded together, and it was perfect…for him.
I asked him what the other members thought the first day he showed up with the T3 Tready Hook at work. “They were brutal,” he says. “They thought it looked like a big giant wand and teased me, calling me the Sorcerer’s Apprentice, and what was I going to do, cast a spell over the fire? Every joke in the book was thrown at me, and I just had to laugh it off and take it. But I knew, given the right opportunity at the right fire, they would see this is a better tool than the ones we were using. One fire came in where I had to sound the roof. As I worked my way up the pitched roof, they could see the tool was out in front of me; all they heard was Boom! Boom! Boom! They could see it worked but reserved judgment.”
WINNING HEARTS AND MINDS
“Then we had another pretty good fire,” says Treadway. “The truck had to pull all the walls and ceilings in the damaged rooms. The other two firefighters, who are quite bigger than me, were using pike poles. I was using my hook and pulled half the room down by myself; they were barely a quarter of the way done on their side in the same amount of time. I just grinned. They finally conceded, ‘Well that thing ain’t too bad.’
“Later, one of the bubbas came up to me and said, ‘Hey man, make me one of those!’ Then I was off for a few days and when I came back, another bubba came up to me and said, ‘Hey! I used that tool a couple of times when you were gone, and it worked great! Make me one of those!’ And, it’s kind of snowballed from there.”
Treadway says he never wanted to start a business—he just wanted a personal tool that worked for him. Since he works with steel anyway, it was an easy project to experiment with. Many peers would be jealous of such an accomplishment, but not here. The captain of the station thought mini versions would make great door handles, giving the station some unique firematic décor. So, the doors of the apparatus bay have Tready Hooks for door handles.
One thing I thought was extremely interesting and proof of the tool’s popularity was when I asked him to lay out the inventory of the T3 Tready Hooks carried on the engine and the truck. I also had him lay out the pike poles and rubbish hooks. I wanted to stage a photograph to compare the tools and give them some scale. What I noticed was the handles of the pike poles and rubbish hooks were clean and almost new while the T3 Tready handles were grimy and scraped, and the hockey wrap was obviously worn. These tools looked like they just came back from battle, while the pike pole and rubbish hook looked like they came out of a museum—in other words, they are not being used. The firefighters are grabbing the Tready Hook almost every time.
The patent for the T3 Tready Hook allows Treadway to put any head onto the ball and shaft. One firefighter wants a “Z” hook (New York hook) instead of the existing hook—totally doable.
The word is getting out on the popularity of this tool. In addition to Burleson, Plano, and other cities in the Metroplex area, the Dallas (TX) Fire-Rescue Department has decided to outfit all of its apparatus with the T3 Tready Hook. The hook can be found as far away as Yonkers, New York. In fact, fire departments in 21 states have seen the value of this innovative tool.
And, how can you not love a tool that firefighters name? In addition to The Wrecking Ball, Billy Baroo, and the Burleson Ball-Buster, there’s The Hulk, The Pink Panther, The Green Hornet, and Lil’ Sally. It was even heard on the radio that an IC called, “Send me that crew with the Sally to the Charlie side!” The T3 Tready Hook is Texas Strong!
RAUL A. ANGULO is a captain (ret.) of Seattle (WA) Fire Department Ladder Co. 6 with more than 37 years of service. He is an international author and instructor and has been teaching at FDIC International since 1996. He is a member of the Fire Apparatus & Emergency Equipment Editorial Advisory Board.