Fire department utilizes abandoned apartments

Jackson French

The vacant Hillcrest Apartment building is still proving useful in the days leading up to its demolition. 

The building, originally scheduled to be demolished on Monday to make way for a new Honors College and International Center, has served as a training ground for the Bowling Green Fire Department.   

Last week, teams from BGFD conducted practice exercises at the site. By Saturday the roof was covered with rectangular holes and the sidewalk around the building was littered with broken glass and chunks of brick left from practice sessions that the department had been undertaken since Wednesday.


Captain Isaac Anthony, coordinator of an exercise at the abandoned building on Saturday, said the chance to practice at abandoned buildings comes up fairly frequently. 

“You have to have a permit to have a building demoed so whenever the permit gets filed with the city, then we get notified through the fire department,” he said. “That way we can make the contact to the proper personnel to get permission to use it for training.” 

Anthony said BGFD has a training center but it is better to use vacant buildings for practice.

“The good thing about the acquired structures is they give us some variety and some stuff we haven’t seen before so then we get to play with some new locations,” he said.

Ron Renner, a sergeant in BGFD, said acquired structures have certain advantages the training center lacks. 

“A lot of stuff in the training center is built to redo and redo,” he said. “Here it’s basically a one-time shot… so it gives you (a) more practical, real-life scenario.”

Renner said the availability of abandoned buildings is sporadic but using them lends practice exercises a “real world atmosphere.”

“We do a lot of practice and a lot of training here,” he said. “When we get opportunities for vacant buildings like this, we jump on them.”

During the practice, Anthony led Renner and a new member of BGFD named Jason Donnelly in cutting a hole in the roof with a buzzsaw-like K-12 Rescue saw. 

“We take saws and hand tools both to the roof, open up the roof structure and that lets any smoke and fire out of the attic so that we can get in from underneath,” he said.

During the second phase of the practice session, Anthony demonstrated how to break open a window with a crowbar-like Halligan tool, emphasizing the shattering of the wooden frame as well as the glass. 

Through the course of the training, they also practiced forcing doors open and breaking through a layer of drywall.

 Kerra Ogden, project manager for the Honors College and International Center, said the building’s demolition, originally scheduled for Monday, had to be postponed due to weather.

She said the building will be torn down “as soon as the weather breaks and we can get in there,” adding that construction on the new Honors and International Center will begin immediately afterward.