Champaign firefighters train in vacant mall

October 29, 2018 by  

Champaign firefighters recently had the opportunity to train at Bergner’s, located in Market Place Mall. They were able to practice rope-assisted searches in the vacant store, an unusual environment they seldom have an opportunity to access, according to an article on

Champaign’s training officer, Gary Gula, described their training as ‘nondestructive’, which was instrumental in the mall allowing them to train there. Last month, they trained at the Dr. Howard Elementary School, where they chopped holes in the roof and forced doors, since the building was being razed anyway.

At Bergner’s, they turned the lights down to simulate a smoky environment, and then went on to practice rope-assisted searches. In this technique, the firefighters anchor the rope, which is 200 feet long, to a point outside the building, then take the rope as far as they can into the building, then retrace their steps, following the rope out again.

Gula said that without the rope as a guide, it’s possible for fire personnel to get lost or disoriented in a building, and run out of air before they can be found. This type of training prepares the firefighters for this scenario. Officials responsible for training like this can work with print shops to design appropriate course materials.

The department personnel also extended the house to the second story to test the hose’s capabilities for fires deep in buildings, according to Gula.