A portion of the old Sherman Hospital on Elgin's east side is enjoying a final hurrah as a firefighters' training ground before it meets the wrecking ball in July.
All this week, more than 300 personnel from 14 fire departments and protection districts are using a rare opportunity to practice their high-rise firefighting skills in the four-story building.
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Fires in high-rises are tricky because they take place while equipment could be several stories below. Because of that, it can take a longer time getting to the fire and the time elapsed could increase the size of the blaze, Elgin Assistant Fire Chief Dave Schmidt said.
One of the exercises Monday involved planning for enough equipment in the staging area, which was two stories below. Firefighters also used the second floor as a command post and searched the fourth floor for potential victims.
Using straw and wood, firefighters are setting fires to different rooms on the fourth floor throughout the week.
After securing permission from Sherman officials for the exercise, the Elgin Fire Department invited firefighters from surrounding communities to practice with them, Schmidt said.
They include fire personnel from South Elgin, the Dundees, Rutland-Dundee, Carpentersville, Hampshire, Pingree Grove, Streamwood, Algonquin, Lake in the Hills, Bartlett, Hoffman Estates and Huntley.
"We like to play with our neighbors," Schmidt quipped.
Elgin has several high rises, including the Tower Building and the Professional Building.
Elgin personnel invited the other agencies to come out because if a high-rise fire ever breaks out in Elgin, its fire department might call on them to help out. So it's a good idea for them to get a working knowledge of how Elgin handles those fires.
"It gives us a chance to put some of the things in practice, some things you don't necessarily get to practice," said Batallion Chief John Greene, of the Algonquin/Lake in the Hills Fire Protection District.
"We've got the basics down; we're just fine-tuning it."
Demolition is scheduled to start on July 2 and should end by August, said Dawn Stoner, the hospital's project coordinator.
Since it was replaced by a new hospital on Randall Road, the old location was used in the 2011 movie, "Contagion."
The parking deck and part of the old hospital -- the oldest portion dates back to 1917 -- are coming down. A green space will go in its place and Sherman will continue to retain ownership of the property.