About The Project

Ask any student what they think the best aspect is about attending a fire protection course. Guaranteed they’ll say the hands-on training. At Fox Valley Technical College (FVTC) in Appleton, WI, more than 10,000 students have participated in that hands-on training during the past eight years on a realistic Fire Facilities, Inc. steel training tower.

The Commissioner, a six-story structure with a residential section, burn room annex and training tower, was installed in 2014 at the Fox Valley Technical College’s Public Safety Training Center (PSTC). Considered one of the Midwest’s premier fire training facilities, PSTC is also used by five different local fire departments for training.

“The Commissioner has proven itself to be a good building for training with solid longevity,” says James Austad, fire protection department chair at Fox Valley Technical College. “The different elements of the structure provide unique training experiences for our students. The burn rooms in particular have given students greater experiences because of the different options available with those rooms.”

30 Years of Service

Austad, who has been in the fire service since 1988, graduated from FVTC in 1990. He’s instructed with FVTC since 1992, leaving his role as Battalion Chief with the City of Oshkosh in 2014 to take on the full-time position as Fire Instructor/Department Chair/Fire District Coordinator at FVTC. 2022 is Austad’s 30th year of service as an instructor at FVTC.

“This structure serves as an enhancement for training at our PSTC,” says Austad. “We had over 900 people take certification courses last year. Many of those have hands-on training with The Commissioner.”

Benefits of The Commissioner

The largest standard Fire Facilities training model, The Commissioner’s tower spans 73-feet long and stands 40-feet high. A residential section features interior and exterior stairs, two roof chop-out curbs, hallways, a burn room, and a burn area in the attic. The tower section offers interior decks and stairs, ship’s ladder, parapet roof guard with chained opening, and a roof chop-out curb. There’s also a cantilevered balcony, inset balcony and fire escape. FVTC customized the structure by adding in a garage fire prop to add a different aspect to training.

“The Commissioner is exceptionally useful for training at FVTC,” says Austad. “In our program, students have the ability to complete certification training for the State of Wisconsin in Firefighter I, Fire Inspector I, and Driver/Operator-Pumper. The department also offers opportunities to take Firefighter II, Fire Instructor I and Fire Officer I certification courses. Students receive training in rope rescue, confined space rescue, and trench rescue to the Technician level. They also receive EMT-Basic certification training while completing their associate degree.

“The better we can prepare our students, the better they can serve their communities in the future. The realistic training scenarios we create with The Commissioner help enhance our students’ knowledge, understanding and reactions to the real-life situations they’ll face during their careers.”

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