Firefighters use old Des Plaines garden center for training

  • Firefighters from Des Plaines on the roof and those from Park Ridge on the ground conduct training exercises Thursday at the former Lurvey garden center building.

      Firefighters from Des Plaines on the roof and those from Park Ridge on the ground conduct training exercises Thursday at the former Lurvey garden center building. Bob Chwedyk | Staff Photographer

  • Park Ridge firefighter Chris Cleary crawls out of a basement window well while Des Plaines firefighters prepare to go on the roof of a 1950s ranch house most recently used as a garden center, but now set for demolition.

      Park Ridge firefighter Chris Cleary crawls out of a basement window well while Des Plaines firefighters prepare to go on the roof of a 1950s ranch house most recently used as a garden center, but now set for demolition. Bob Chwedyk | Staff Photographer

  • A new two-story garden center is planned at Lurvey Landscape Supply & Garden Center at Dempster Street and Potter Road in Des Plaines.

    A new two-story garden center is planned at Lurvey Landscape Supply & Garden Center at Dempster Street and Potter Road in Des Plaines. Courtesy of Lurvey Landscape Supply & Garden Center

 
 
Updated 7/16/2015 9:36 PM

Gardeners purchasing flowers and shrubs at Lurvey Landscape Supply & Garden Center in Des Plaines this week can't help but notice firefighters and hook and ladder trucks at the scene of what has appeared to be a smokey house on site.

But it's only fake smoke -- and the firefighters aren't responding to a real fire -- as they conduct training at Lurvey's former garden center building.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                       
 

The structure, a 1950s ranch house later converted to the garden center, is set to be demolished next week, along with the old greenhouse, and be replaced by a new two-story building on the same footprint.

Lurvey employees offered the Des Plaines Fire Department use of the house at 2550 E. Dempster St. when fire inspectors were conducting their annual sprinkler inspections.

"When they were walking around, we were talking about how we're taking the building down and they said, 'Hey, we're always looking for a place to train,'" said Jean Bragdon, Lurvey's operations manager.

And so for three days this week, firefighters from Des Plaines, Park Ridge and the North Maine Fire Protection District have been using the structure to brush up on their skills. No real fires have been set because of the building's proximity to the garden and neighboring properties, but firefighters have been able to simulate how to attack a fire, practice search and rescue skills, ventilate a structure, and communicate with one another.

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"We work very well together in a lot of our responses and we're training together as one department," said Forest Reeder, Des Plaines' division chief of training. "It's a great opportunity given to us by the great folks here at Lurvey's."

Firefighters have been on site during the mornings and afternoons Wednesday and Thursday, and they plan to wrap up their training Friday.

The building originally served as the home of the Lindeman family, which operated a garden center of their own until Lurvey took over in the early 1990s.

After the former garden center and greenhouse are taken down next week, construction will begin on the new building. It's about double in size as the original garden center, but the new structure will include the greenhouse.

"We've outgrown it," Bragdon said of the current building. "We're ready for something bigger."

The new building is expected to open in the spring of 2016. In the meantime, the center is operating out of temporary quarters on the site.

• Daily Herald staff photographer Bob Chwedyk contributed to this report.

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