By Jennifer Grimes

Triplicate staff writer

A condemned motel on Crescent Citys south side became a classroom for local fire fighters Saturday.

The Harbor Motel on south Highway 101 was set ablaze to help train the 70 volunteers who man the six fire departments throughout Del Norte County.

It went very well. There were about 25 to 30 inexperienced guys - these are all volunteer departments, so its not unusual to get people without experience - so, it was good for them to have this opportunity, said Crescent City Fire Chief Stephen Wakefield.

The training mission started at 6 a.m. Several small fires were set in different rooms of the motel so the less experienced men could go in and get the feel of it, Wakefield said. By 11:30 a.m., the entire north section of the U-shaped building was totally engulfed in flames. Heat from the fire was so intense, it was almost unbearable from even 200 yards away.

Great plumes of black smoke billowed into the sky. City crews blocked off a section of the Highway as a safety precaution.

Smith River Fire, Crescent Fire Protection, Gasquet Fire, Crescent City Fire, Fort Dick Fire and the Harbor Fire departments all took advantage of the training opportunity.

There was a lot of good cooperation between all the different departments, Wakefield said.

Harbor Motel was shut down last year after parents of a Jaycees basketball tournament participant complained to the city about the motels dilapidated condition.

After the letter of complaint, the city building inspector, the health and fire department investigated the motels condition, finding it unstable and a health hazard almost immediately, and closed it down.

Ownership of the property reverted back to Hector Brown who owned the land, but not the motel. Brown invited the city to use the motel for a training burn, according to City Manager Dave Wells.

Now, the property is a flat stretch of dirt, with the exception of one smoldering pile of rubble.

Brown said there are no definite plans for the property yet.