The Manning Motel in Superior became a training ground this week.

Members of the Superior Police Department and Douglas County and St. Louis County sheriff’s offices conducted training exercises on room clearing, mechanical breaching and explosive breaching at the site Tuesday, July 6.

"This was a great opportunity for various law enforcement entities to conduct training in real buildings," said Superior Police Captain Tom Champaigne. "It is not often that we get a commercial building with doors and windows to practice the techniques we would use in a real world incident."

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Superior firefighters, from left, Tom LeSage, Dan Sertich, Blake Orton and Gary Winters work on the roof at the Manning Motel during training exercises Wednesday, July 7, 2021. The crew was cutting ventilation holes in the ceiling at the motel. (Jed Carlson/jcarlson@superiortelegram.com)
Superior firefighters, from left, Tom LeSage, Dan Sertich, Blake Orton and Gary Winters work on the roof at the Manning Motel during training exercises Wednesday, July 7, 2021. The crew was cutting ventilation holes in the ceiling at the motel. (Jed Carlson/jcarlson@superiortelegram.com)

He said they used tools ranging from a ram, sledgehammer and halogen to explosives and even used the department's armored bearcat vehicle to breach a wall. The experience gave them a chance to compare techniques and get familiar with how each department works.

Superior firefighters spent Wednesday, July 7, cutting ventilation holes in the flat roof of the motel and drafting water from a collapsible dump tank into a fire engine, a technique used to battle fires when hydrants aren’t available. The site also offered a chance to work on forcible entry into doors.

“Whether it’s a medical call or a fire call, if we get to a place we have to get into to mitigate the emergency, we have to be able to get in in a way that’s going to cause the least damage,” said Fire Captain Joe Tribbey

For him, the training involved a sense of deja vu. The Superior Fire Department was called to a fire in one of the motel’s units in January 2019. Tribbey was on the crew that responded. They were able to extinguish the fire quickly and limit damage to the unit.

Superior Fire Captain Mike Hoyt, left, and firefighter Tony Orlandi work on connecting a hose to the rig from a basin outside of the Manning Motel during training exercises Wednesday, July 7, 2021. (Jed Carlson/jcarlson@superiortelegram.com)
Superior Fire Captain Mike Hoyt, left, and firefighter Tony Orlandi work on connecting a hose to the rig from a basin outside of the Manning Motel during training exercises Wednesday, July 7, 2021. (Jed Carlson/jcarlson@superiortelegram.com)

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By the time the fire department wraps up training next week, Tribbey said, the Manning Motel will have provided 40 hours of training 10 to law enforcement, 30 to firefighters. Additional rotations of firefighters plan to train at the site Friday, July 9, and Monday, July 12.

“What this building is really affording us is the ability to work on a flat roof, which we don’t get,” Tribbey said.

Most of the buildings donated to the department for training have pitched roofs. A flat roof takes different equipment and techniques to breach, beginning with finding which direction the roof joists are facing and then working through the many layers.

Superior Fire Captain Mike Hoyt looks back as he shoots water onto the Manning Motel during training exercises Wednesday, July 7, 2021. (Jed Carlson/jcarlson@superiortelegram.com)
Superior Fire Captain Mike Hoyt looks back as he shoots water onto the Manning Motel during training exercises Wednesday, July 7, 2021. (Jed Carlson/jcarlson@superiortelegram.com)

“We have some people that have been here for 20 years like myself,” Tribbey said. “And we have a couple other recruits that are in the first six months. So when we get opportunities like this, it benefits everyone, whether you’ve been here for a month or 25 years. It’s a really good mix. It also offers an opportunity for some of the more experienced people to give tips and tricks to some of the younger people. And even some of the younger people might have tips or tricks for the older folks.”

The building site, which encompasses nearly 9 acres, was purchased by Kari Toyota on April 30. It will become the new home of the car dealership, which is squeezed for space in its current spot downtown.

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“We’re excited about it. It’s a change, obviously, but I like the location,” said owner and general manager Chris Kari, who lives six blocks from the site.

About half the business’ customers come from Duluth, he said, and the Manning Motel is near the foot of the Bong Bridge. Kari said the business was quick to offer the site for training before the motel is torn down.

“We knew that was coming down so we thought, ‘Let’s give it a good purpose here at the end of its life, let the SWAT team and the fire departments get some valuable training on the building,'” Kari said. “And it’s fun to watch.”

Superior firefighters, from left, Tom LeSage, Gary Winters, Blake Orton, and Dan Sertich cut out pieces of the roof at the Manning Motel during training exercises Wednesday, July 7, 2021. (Jed Carlson/jcarlson@superiortelegram.com)
Superior firefighters, from left, Tom LeSage, Gary Winters, Blake Orton, and Dan Sertich cut out pieces of the roof at the Manning Motel during training exercises Wednesday, July 7, 2021. (Jed Carlson/jcarlson@superiortelegram.com)

He hopes Kari Toyota’s move to the Billings Park area will spur additional growth. The dealership doesn’t need all the space.

“We have extra (space) available so we could sell off some acres for the right fit,” Kari said.

The Manning Motel will be demolished within a few weeks, he said, but construction won’t begin right away. The family business began in 1933 as a service station and expanded to offer vehicles, beginning with Studebakers. They’ve offered the Toyota line for more than 50 years.