Weekly Fire Service Icon Review- Hugh HALLIGAN

****NOTE: Welcome to a NEW Segment at Pass It On Fire Training. Here we are going to be doing a weekly post (To be Posted Every Saturday) Featuring a Fire Service Icon/ Legend. This segment has been based off this past week’s Firefighting Weekly Roundtable, where we discussed Fire Service Icons (HERE).

It is my hope that if you have never heard of some of these legends that you go forth and do your own research and study on the individual. Some of the legends we are going to feature have literally changed the way the fire service operates, and it is our hope to preserve them, their legacy, and the dedication to the fire service.

By doing these weekly posts, we hope to keep fulfilling our mission of Passing on Vital Fire Service Information.

If you would like to have a icon featured in this segment, please contact us!

Thanks for Reading, Ethan Bansek



Hugh Augustine Halligan


Hugh A. Halligan, born on September 16, 1894, was appointed to the FDNY on June 16, 1916 and was assigned to Engine 88. His career was interrupted by service in the Army during World War I where time he served with the 342nd Fire Guard. Upon his return, he was reassigned to Engine 35 and worked there until he was promoted to Lieutenant on April 16, 1922 and assigned to Engine 20 for two years before he was promoted to Captain on February 1, 1924. He was successively in charge of Engines 86, 92, 35 and 73. Moving up to Battalion Chief on June 1, 1929, the youngest to do so at the time, he commanded the 6th Battalion for three years and the 18th Battalion for an additional two years.

Изобритатель-Хулигана-Hugh-A.-Halligan101997384_135517861958 On October 1, 1934, two weeks before his 40th birthday, Hugh Halligan attained the rank of Deputy Chief. On August 20, 1941, Commissioner Patrick Walsh appointed Halligan to the post of First Deputy Commissioner. Politics being what they are, Halligan was removed from that “civilian” position in March 1942 and assumed his role as Deputy Chief once again.

In 1948, Chief Halligan worked with the Halligan bars two predecessors. The Kelly tool and the Claw tool.

The Claw Tool
The Claw Tool.

The Claw tool was considered to be one of the first forcible entry tool used by FDNY. This tool had been used on the job since the early 1920s and was difficult to use. As most had discovered through painful experience, the Claw Tool was heavy and the striking surface was off-centered, making it very dangerous for any firefighter holding it as it was driven into the door.

Then, a captain from Ladder Company 163, John Kelly, designed the next generation of forcible entry tool to be used by FDNY. Naturally, it was called the Kelly tool. This new tool did not have the large hook with the offset striking surface. The striking surface was inline with the entire bar and had a 90 flat surface (the adz) to the end..

The Kelly Tool.

The Kelly tool had a couple of downfalls; like the Claw tool it too was welded and still too heavy. And, in those days, firefighters needed to bring both tools to the building due to their specific advantages. Chief Halligan wanted to design a tool that could be held in one hand; one that would not chip or break at a critical moment; a tool that would not fatigue a firefighter; and one that could be used with safety and full efficiency. After many hours of trial and error the Halligan bar was born.

The Original Halligan, looks similar to Today’s Version of the tool with the exception of a shorter fork end.

The Halligan bar was made of cross-drop forged from one piece of No. 4140 (high carbon content) steel, weighed 8  lbs. Comprised of an adz, pick, and fork, the Halligan would prove to be one of the greatest forcible entry tools ever made. The standard issue bar is approximately 30 in length, with a 15/16 shaft shaped into a hexagon for grip. The fork is a minimum of 6 long taper into two well beveled tines. Spacing between the tines allows for a gas valve to be shut off. The adz has a gentle curve for additional leverage, with a beveled end. In addition to being used to break something, the pick and adz only when properly used, provide protection to the arms, hands, and body of the holder during forcible entry operations.ChiefHughHalligan

As soon as the tool went on the market it was a huge success. The Boston Fire Department was one of the first to place the Halligan bar on every ladder company in their department.halligan5halligan2halligan4Halliganimage006

No one would naturally think FDNY had been the first to have them issued to their ladder companies. Unfortunately, there was a small problem. It was determined by those in higher places that there was a conflict of interest to have a member of the department selling tools or equipment back to the department in which they worked in. The department’s hands were tied and the bars could not be purchased. However, the bars could be purchased by anyone other than the department itself. Ladder companies across the city began purchasing the Halligan bars with their own money. The first company in FDNY to receive one was Ladder Company 47. Coincidentally, they were the first due ladder to Chief Halligans home in Parkchester, NY.

The 2nd generation and later Halligan bars were printed on the forks with what looks like AM+D6. It is, however, believed to be AMDG, which is a Latin acronym for Ad Majorem Dei Gloriam or for “the greater glory of God”. This Latin phrase was a favorite of St. Ignatius of Loyola, founder of The Society of Jesus. Pope John Paul II routinely used it in his writings. He would print AMDG in the top left of every page he wrote.

halligan name

Chief Halligan was a very religious man. It has been told that he would hand make a rosary for each new member coming into the FDNY. After this task became too overwhelming, it was thought that Chief Halligan turned his religious influences into his bars by having each one printed with AM+DG.

Today, tools with the same basic design but slight improvements are still called Halligans.

Hugh A. Halligan mandatorily retired from the FDNY, with 43 Years Service, on September 16, 1959; his sixty-fifth birthday.

Halligan died on February 27, 1987 in The Bronx

Halligan Bar Uses

The value of the original Halligan tool can’t be understated—it was a clear improvement over the tools used before and was superior when it had to “be used for cutting, lifting, twisting, prying and wedging.” Although the tool may have been retrofitted or redesigned by many manufacturers, its basic concept of three workable ends continues to uphold its value to the fire service. In addition, it has helped countless numbers of firefighters do battle on the fireground and emergency scene every day.

Note: We would like to acknowledge that much of the information was taken from multiple sources in the form of books, articles, and pictures. HERE, HERE, HERE, HERE, and HERE is where Information was taken.

Thanks for Reading, Ethan Bansek



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