SUSQUEHANNA TOWNSHIP, Pa. (WHTM) — Firefighters in Susquehanna Township sharpened their skills training in a vacant restaurant on Wednesday night.

The former Joe K’s Brewhouse is going to be turned into a car wash in the coming weeks, so the opportunity to get hands-on training in — or on — an actual building was an opportunity that couldn’t be passed up.

“Even though they’re not doing live fire tonight, they’re getting to actually cut a commercial building roof as opposed to at a training center where it’s just plywood and stuff like that. Here they actually get to go see the materials and use the actual building that they could be running,” said Progress Fire Co. Capt. Benny Wolford.

Since the vacant restaurant is set to be torn down, the new landowners gave firefighters an opportunity to train for the real thing using chainsaws to cut holes for vertical ventilation.

“Which is where we open the roof to allow everything to come out of the building, all the smoke and fire and stuff, and it makes it easier for the engine companies operating below it,” Wolford said.

Below, fake smoke filled the restaurant.

“So as they’re cutting the holes they’re getting a return of smoke out like they would on a working fire,” Wolford said.

Wolford says the majority of fires are in houses and apartments, but this training is crucial.

“We get commercial fires every year but they’re less in volume,” Wolford said. “So to be able to get a building like this and to be able to do that in a building like this is pretty awesome because it’s the less frequent fires we have, and they’re a little bit more challenging because of the larger area.”

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The public training also serves as a recruiting tool.

“Volunteering across the country is going away. It’s for a multitude of different reasons. I think society changing is one type of thing. I think people having multiple jobs, things like that, there’s just not a lot of time for people to volunteer,” Wolford said.

See Daniel Hamburg’s report from the rooftop at 7:

Many people just have less time to give, but fire departments need more volunteers.

“When you go out and you have on your resume that you’re a volunteer firefighter it should tell employers that you have discipline, you have integrity, you have community service,” said Chief George Drees.

The building is scheduled to be demolished Monday to make way for a new Tommy’s Express Car Wash.

Christianson Companies, Fargo ND, the owners/developers of the property, along with Ames Construction, Inc. of Ephrata, the General Contractor, made the space available for Susquehanna Township Public Safety.

“By seeing how they acquire these skills, this is a great way to recognize the volunteers who may someday save your life,” a press release said. “Ames is pleased to be able to help facilitate their training,” said Phil Eby, Director of Business Development at Ames Construction, Inc.