Residents in the area of Ninth Street and Avalon were startled by explosions they were hearing Friday afternoon — noises that turned out to be Kansas Highway Patrol training in Oldfather Studios.
Technical Trooper Don Hughes said law enforcement was conducting “breach” training, or practice for crisis situations in which technicians must make entry through a door that has been barricaded or create another method of entry. That can involve using some explosives, he said.
Hughes said it’s important to train ahead of crisis situations — different types of buildings and materials can require different levels of explosives to breach.
“Each structure poses a different set of circumstances, so our technicians need to know that we only need four grams or eight grams or whatever it is for this thickness of structure,” Hughes said.
Many area residents took to social media Friday to voice their concerns about having no notice that such training was coming up — however, Hughes said the agency did attempt to warn nearby residents. Personnel involved with the training did try to knock on doors of neighbors in the immediate vicinity of Oldfather, he said, and some signs were posted in the area to alert residents to the KHP’s plans.
But there was no major notice to the whole city ahead of time, or anything of that nature. Hughes said that’s because oftentimes members of the public want to watch — and that can create even more complicated safety concerns.
“It’s not a demonstration for the public; it’s not like an air show,” he said.
The Lawrence Police Department and Douglas County dispatchers were notified, though, Hughes said, and Lawrence-Douglas County Fire Medical was there to provide emergency medical standby. A spokesperson for LPD on Friday said that no Lawrence police personnel were involved in the KHP’s training.
Hughes said he hadn’t been aware that stretch of Ninth Street was closed during that time frame, but he said that limited traffic in the area would be even more helpful as far as the safety concerns go — “What better time?” he said.
Hughes said this type of training is sometimes conducted in a central location like Oldfather, near other structures and residences, if a building is available and technicians need practice on that type of material.
Hughes was not sure Monday morning whether there would be any further training conducted in Oldfather Studios.
KHP appreciates the public’s support and understanding, Hughes said.
The University of Kansas got permission from the state Board of Regents to sell the Oldfather Studios building, 1621 W. Ninth St., back in May 2019. Plans have been filed to build an apartment complex on the site.
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Mackenzie Clark (she/her), reporter/founder of The Lawrence Times, can be reached at mclark (at) lawrencekstimes (dot) com. Read more of her work for the Times here. Check out her staff bio here.