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A pike pole is a tool used by firefighters to knock down drywall when fighting a fire. In the past, the pike pole has been used by log drivers to help free log jams on a river, though this practice is antiquated. The pole is no longer used in this way, except in competition or educational settings. These poles are sometimes known as firefighting poles because they are primarily used for this purpose; the pole is often hooked at one end to facilitate easier movement of materials, especially drywall and wood.
Modern day pike pole models are lightweight and durable; they are sometimes made from fiberglass to save on weight and increase strength and durability. The hook on the end of the pole is usually made of metal such as steel or even iron for durability and heavy-duty use. A firefighter is likely to use a pike pole during a fire to tear down drywall. This is done to find out if a fire is burning behind the drywall in the wall itself; by revealing the fire, the firefighters can then douse the flames or trace the fire to its source more easily and quickly.
In times past, the pike pole was been used to tear down structures on either side of the structure on fire. This would help prevent the fire from spreading throughout larger regions, though this practice is used less since modern techniques can help prevent the spread of fires more quickly and effectively. The pike pole may still be used for such purposes, however, especially on smaller structures. It can also be used to break windows for ventilation, for pulling down ceiling tiles or other material, and for removing items that may add fuel to a fire without having to get too close to the flames themselves.
River drivers used a pike pole to free up log jams as logs were floated down rivers to mills. River driving was a very dangerous job that required a person to run out onto the logs in many cases, using the pike poles to free the logs when they got hung up on each other or on other obstructions in the river. A river driver could very easily fall between the logs when using the pike, which often led to crushing deaths or other injuries. The pike poles allowed river drivers to free the jams without having to do it by hand, thereby getting too close to the jammed log. The pole also allowed the driver to leverage the logs, thereby freeing them more easily.