City officials plan to tear it down. But for now, the former Nights Inn building makes an ideal training location, a Leavenworth Fire Department official said.
Firefighters were training at the old downtown Leavenworth hotel Tuesday evening and again Wednesday afternoon. And more training may be conducted this weekend.
"This is an opportunity we don't get very often," Leavenworth Assistant Fire Chief Mike Lingenfelser said.
He acknowledged that the Leavenworth Fire Department has a training tower. But he said the old hotel has more rooms than can be set up in a training tower. And the rooms in the hotel still have furniture that had to be navigated as firefighters practiced searching for people in trouble.
The former Knights Inn, located at 101 S. Third St., recently was purchased by the city of Leavenworth from a bank in Tennessee for $592,500. City Manager Scott Miller said the property was purchased with hope it can be developed, possibly for a new hotel.
The building has been vacant for some time after the Nights Inn went out of business.
Members of the Leavenworth Police Department and Leavenworth County Sheriff's Office also have trained at the old hotel in recent days.
Fourteen members of the Leavenworth Fire Department participated in Wednesday's training. Lingenfelser and Mark DeMaranville, a health inspector and training officer, were on hand to oversee the training.
Several dummies, or "victims," were placed in an 11-room section of the second floor of the hotel. The area was filled with theatrical smoke.
Responding firefighters had to search a smoke-filled hallway and rooms for the dummies, which then were carried from the building. Sometimes, firefighters had to use their tools to force hotel room open doors.
At one point, Lingenfelser asked a firefighter to pretend to be in trouble inside one of the hotel rooms.
"We threw a twist into it," he said.
The firefighter activated a distress alarm, and a two-man rapid intervention team was sent into the building.
Matt Chastain, who played the part of the downed firefighter, said he was dragged down a flight of stairs as he was pulled from the building.
"It wasn't bumpy," he said. "It was just an odd feeling."
Firefighters carried hoses into the building, but they didn't pump any water during the training.
Had Wednesday's fire and rescue situation been real, Lingenfelser said, there would have been a request for assistance from other agencies such as the Fort Leavenworth Fire Department.
Lingenfelser said Leavenworth Fire Department officials plan to use the building for other scenarios.