When to use The Ceremonial Pike Pole and Fire Axe

Firefighter honor guards have the unique ability to use two implements of their trade for ceremonial use: the pike pole and fire axe.

The Pike Pole
First used to unhorse and attacker in the middle ages, it is now used to pull ceilings down and sort of other things to search for hazards. There are two ceremonial versions, one about 4-feet tall and one about 43″ long. Click here for nomenclature and information.

The Fire Axe
A standard axe with a pick on the opposite side of the blade. Click here for nomenclature and information.

Is Variety the Spice of Ceremony Makeup?
This is a matter of opinion. My opinion, based on my experience, is that any ceremonial element (colors, cordon, casket watch) should stick to one piece of equipment and here is the rationale: military color teams do not mix rifle types (M1 Garand, M14, M1903), they do not mix a rifle with a sword or a rifle with a sidearm. Mixing a pike pole and a fire axe is the same- it just looks odd. My advice is to carry similar equipment in the same element.

Stand at Ease with Pike Pole

Port Arms with Pike Pole

Right Shoulder with Fire Axe

 For info on which shoulder to use on a color team, click here.

2 thoughts on “When to use The Ceremonial Pike Pole and Fire Axe”

  1. The only drawback to carrying the fire axe at right or left shoulder arms is that your hand partially covers the blade. It still looks like an axe from the side, but from the front, it looks like you’re missing part of your weapon or you’re carrying a stick. And you’re carrying it upside down. Realistically, it’s not practical to carry it right side up because it’s top heavy, especially if you’re carrying a real axe, not a lighter weight ceremonial axe.

    Back in fire academy, I was taught that the safest way to carry an axe was along the long axis of the body with the blade tucked under my arm. To ask a firefighter to carry an axe upside down would be like asking a soldier to carry a rifle upside down. It’s carried blade up. Honestly, I’ve never seen a fire department Color Guard carry axes at right or left shoulder arms. People shouldn’t have to guess who you are because they can’t tell what kind of weapon you’re carrying. Put the tools of your trade on display. Be obvious! For ceremonial purposes, I was taught to use port arms in place of right and left shoulder arms. Moral of the story is that there is more than one correct way to do something! Make a decision and stick with it!

    I have your Honor Guard Manual. It’s a great reference and has shown me alternative ways to do things. Thanks!

    1. The manual of arms I developed for the pike pole and fire axe are based on the manual of arms for the rifle and when teams that have different weapons/tools work together, their movements are similar.

      Axe head-up is reasonable, but not always practical. I decided to help alleviate the stress on the arms from carrying the axe- especially a real one.

      Thanks for your comments, Maria!

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