Saturday, July 20, 2013

James Bond—Nope, More Like Maxwell Smart: The Jet Axe

The side compartment of the vehicle was opened and the rectangular package removed and carried to the ladder located in front of the smoking building.  The action hero briskly climbed to the roof and brought his burden to near the ridge line, carefully laying it with the long axis perpendicular to the peak.   

He punched a hole in the cover, pulling a hidden control box connected to the package by a wire harness from the interior.  Retreating to the safety of the ladder, he climbed below the eave to shield himself, tempted to yell out “fire in the hole.”   Pushing the button on the control in his hand was thrilling.  The noise from the explosion caught the attention of all those nearby.  Smoke poured from the opening in the roof, a perfectly cut rectangle in the shape of the package, not from the explosion, but from the fire below.

Ventilation without a saw; what a concept.  This isn’t Bond, Schwarzenegger, Stallone, or Bruce Willis, nor is it a USFA development project for 2017.  This is technology from the middle of the last century; the Jet Axe.  

The Jet-Axe wasn’t just for ventilation; it could be used for forcible entry as well.  Developed using military style explosives, and designed to focus the blast in a narrow area, it came into use primarily in the late 1960s, and out shortly thereafter.  The manufacturer apparently did not account for the explosive contents becoming unstable over time and bouncing about in ladder truck compartments. 

Legend has it that the problem first reared its head in San Francisco when an unsuspecting truck company had a new hole where a compartment door previously resided--a Jet-Axe “operated” while the ladder truck was underway.  Word spread quickly, and most were removed from service promptly.   

For those of an inventive nature, research shows that the trade-mark on the name expired in 2001 (making it available again) and was last owned by Explosive Technology, Inc. in Fairfield, California.  Lots of things in the fire service are cyclical in nature; maybe this will be another... 


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