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‘It’s a Long Walk to the 15th Floor’ in Fire Drill

SPECIAL TO THE TIMES

Smoke-darkened hallways, endless flights of steps and a high-rise hotel full of guests were all elements of a drill Tuesday in Garden Grove to train firefighters for the real thing.

“It couldn’t have been more real unless we lit one of the rooms,” Garden Grove Fire Chief Warren Hartley said.

In addition to Garden Grove, the drill included departments from Anaheim, Orange, Fullerton, Santa Ana, Brea, La Habra and Laguna Beach, for a total of 78 firefighters. The two-hour drill started about 1:30 p.m., with smoke filling the 15th floor of the Hyatt Regency Alicante, 100 Plaza Alicante.

“You do get high-rise fires, but they’re so rare, if you don’t exercise you won’t be able to handle it,” Hartley said. “And we learned it’s a long walk to the 15th floor.”

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The departments train for high-rise fires every three months, and Hyatt officials wanted to test their fire plan.

“We do this for the safety of our guests and our employees,” hotel general manager Don Schmid said. “You want to make this a habit.”

Usually, the firefighters exercise on weekends, using empty office buildings, Hartley said. But the addition of guests and staff inside the hotel added an important touch of realism, he said. The hotel kept rooms on the 14th, 15th and 16th floors vacant so guests wouldn’t be inconvenienced, Schmid said.

But, in addition to providing practice for the staff and firefighters, Schmid said the spectacle gave the guests “something else to watch and talk about.”

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