My training and tools side hustle receives a fair share of inquiries regarding “vetting” new tools. These typically come from the company themselves, direct to us, for review. What intrigued me as a Truck Co. firefighter after seeing The CHAR tool was that this could be the first vertical firefighter self-rescue tool. As a massive fan of the pompier ladder, I had to get my hands on this.
The tools and gear we get are used in our firehouses, on the fireground, in training, and in classes, we teach. We try to break or find a weakness in everything. We offer friends and those in our classes the same opportunity. In a gimmick world of Swiss-Army fire tools (a wedge with a fu**king oxygen wrench!), not many things make it passed the guys & girls on the floor or the real-world application. Seeing The CHAR on the internet and having one in your hands is two completely different things. Take my word for it, and I’ll add that anyone reading this review; write to me and I’ll send you one of our company ones to borrow. It will change your mind. Read on.
WTF is that? That is almost everyone’s response. Let’s dive in a bit further. The website says, “tradition has met innovation.” Is that true?
Let’s talk about the unboxing… with my beautiful girlfriend we tracked down the FedEx lady at Wawa and much to our surprise all she had was a skateboard we had ordered. After tracking down another FedEx driver (with incredible customer service help from FedEx), we met up at a local lock shop. There I was handed what looked like a ten-foot box.
I unwrapped the tool and immediately started looking for a horse and a suit of armor. I was ready to go jousting! Totally kidding… but I didn’t know how to feel about it. Oddly intimidating and not your average looking tool. Then again, people told Hugh that in 1948.
Let’s examine what we are working with.
- 80 Grade Steel
- Three offset 3/8″ steps for climbing with the bottom step functioning as a ceiling hook and the bottom of the tool having a gas/ water key design.
6’5” in height & 13lbs in weight. You have to be a truckie or at least built like one to want to carry this tool around and not get your ass whipped. The height and weight pay dividends in the work.
What you get with this tool:
- Vertical self-rescue tool
- A short pompier style ladder (short story, 1st story VES, below grade)
- A versatile ceiling hook
- A powerful and destructive overhaul tool.
We took the tool to an acquired structure we had obtained for training. We hooked ceiling in every room of the house, climbed into the attic multiple times with guys of different builds and statures, and ripped structural members to effect ingress & egress. Understanding how to use the tool to your advantage is a significant component to using this tool effectively. Mechanical advantage and leverage are two really basic yet critical considerations one must have with any tool, and this is no different. Space is needed as well; at 6’5,” there are just some places this tool won’t fit. No different than any other Halligan Hook or ceiling hook but a consideration nonetheless.
Climbing: Surprisingly easy and comfortable. The mere fact that you’re going to a job with a multi-function tool that offers the ability to climb the actual tool is pretty unique and a great asset on the fireground. Just having one of these in the fire building is a huge benefit if/ when things go bad. During our field testing, we climbed the tool into numerous attic spaces and other confined spaces. We also used it for first floor VES evolutions and found it to be very comfortable, steady, and easy. Take the window with your CHAR (the wide, heavy, head makes this a breeze) and then set it to climb, ascend with your search tool, and roll on. If you need a vertical assist or, hell, even a long tool to assist in victim drags or carries or lifting to the window… this is it. The one downside to climbing the tool is your face to face with the cutting edge/ drop snoot head as you transition passed it or onto it. In full PPE (mask/ helmet) this isn’t an issue. We even took a floor and climbed down the tool. It is very practical and something no other tool offers. We had our doubts about how secure the tool would sit (resting against nothing on the shaft of the tool, hooked only at the top) and it holds surprisingly well and secure.
Hooking: The CHAR is a beast when it comes to hooking ceiling; residential or commercial. We made quick work of a few different ceiling materials. The head punches a nice hole for a purchase point and the last step of the tool functions to rip and hook with efficiency. You won’t have the mechanical advantages and angles associated with a traditional Halligan Hook but you’re going to be able to pull ceiling material. Not much practical use for roof work outside of sounding and punching.
Let’s rip. Ripping structural members – vertical or horizontal is something that this tool does with ease. The MA associated with the shaft length and head design – as well as the teeth gripping the material, make this operation smooth. We found on the fireground, true dimensional lumber doesn’t bite as well, but it still bites enough to climb & rip. Gripping a vertical member while you’re horizontal and removing it works well. We see this being used in the RIT rescue, self-rescue, and overhaul arena.
We absolutely recommend this tool for any special service company. Trucks, Rescues, and Squads – or any Engine Co. that does truckless truckie work; you should strongly consider buying one of these and then deciding for yourself and your companies in your district if this is the right tool for you.