Billowing smoke. One injured person. An electrocuted maintenance worker on the roof. That’s what local firefighters expected Sunday at Greenwood Mall’s food court.

The experience was intense, firefighters say, albeit fake.

The Bowling Green Fire Department responded to a simulated fire at the food court as part of training for about 25 firefighters. The department holds such trainings multiple times a year, and organizers try to target places that hold a lot of people such as the mall, Capt. Jason Sowders said.

“It’s like theaters, churches, malls – places where there’s a lot of assembly,” he said. “A little bit of smoke in the building causes people to panic.”

The mall was also chosen because of its location – it would be a prime spot for an emergency, Sowders said.

“This mall is in the direct path of the airport runway,” he said. “So, this is a very high target for a disaster.”

The exercise occurred before the mall opened Sunday. Firefighters rushed to the scene in their trucks, dashing inside to contain the fire and evacuate an injured person. Firefighters then climbed to the roof, where a maintenance worker had been electrocuted. Dummies represented both the person inside and the maintenance worker.

“It’s a learning experience for everybody from the senior guys down to the junior guys,” firefighter Brad Akins said

Bryan Kozak is a firefighter recruit, and Sunday’s exercise was the first time he had taken part in such a training, he said.

“It gives you a feeling of what the situation is really like,” he said.

Firefighters do not get as much on-the-job experience on big fires as they did years ago, Akins said, because more residents and business owners practice fire prevention methods. Therefore, training, like Sunday’s exercise, is very important, he said.

“We try to re-create as much as we can to make it as close as we can” to a real fire, he said. “But nothing is real until it’s real life.”

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