Firefighters Hone Skills At Former Keg & Kraut

The vacant structure that once housed the former Keg and Kraut Restaurant at the corner of 16th and Jacob streets in East Wheeling served as a prime location for nearly a dozen Wheeling firefighters to participate in search and rescue training exercises this week.

Jim Blazier, assistant chief for the Wheeling Fire Department’s training division, said the former restaurant and pub is now owned by the city of Wheeling. He said it is a good training location due to its rather unusual floor plan. The restaurant was located on the ground floor of the multi-story building, but the eatery’s bar, dining room and other spaces were laid out in a sort of split-level design.

Blazier said as part of training, firefighters searched for a small mannequin while a nontoxic, artificial smoke obscured their visibility inside a portion of the structure. Firefighters were spotted wearing complete turnout gear and carrying charged hoses in and out of the building’s front entrance.

“The possibility of getting buildings like this is sometimes few and far between. This gives us a very realistic outlook. … This is a floor plan that these guys have not seen before today,” said Blazier, noting the training division tries to simulate going into a real structure fire.

Blazier said while the training is necessary for some of the department’s newly hired firefighters, it is also beneficial for veterans on the department.

“It also helps the older guys because it helps hone their skills a little bit,” said Blazier.

He said it also allows the younger firefighters to learn from the more experienced members and provides them with additional confidence in their ability to work together.