Thirty years ago in the autumn of 1991, the first Fire Facilities Inc. training tower was put into service in Traverse City, Mich. Now, three decades later, the tower is still actively used by firefighters in a variety of Michigan locations.
“Many generations of firefighters have trained on that tower,” says Chief Jim Tuller with the Traverse City Fire Department. “I was in my first year as a firefighter in Traverse City back then.
“Personally, I remember that initially training on the four-story Lieutenant tower was very different from training exercises in condemned houses. It was much more realistic, but because the environment was totally controllable, it allowed the students to focus more on our training objectives.”
The steel Lieutenant fire training building came to Traverse City complete with a burn room annex. Atop the structure is a parapet roof guide with a chain opening for easy rappelling and roof exercises.
Three Decades of Service
After 30 years “on the job,” the Lieutenant is still actively used for live fire simulations in Traverse City. Over the years the tower has also been continuously used for firefighter mayday training along with bail out drills. It’s used regularly by firefighters, police and EMS personnel for everything from K-9 unit searches to rope rescue operations to multiple fire-based training drills.
“We’re proud that the Traverse City training tower is still handling the rigorous needs of firefighters in northwestern Michigan,” says Aaron Adams, president of Fire Facilities, Inc. “It’s great to look back and hear that a three-decade old structure is still handling their needs. It’s even better to know that, during those past 30 years, we’ve been able to make and supply more than 900 fire training structures to fire departments in all 50 United States and around the world.”
To further understand the hard-working Lieutenant training tower in Grand Traverse, Tuller explains exactly who gets to train on the Lieutenant. “There are nine fire departments in Grand Traverse County and many more in five contiguous counties,” says Tuller. “They all get to train on this tower regularly.
“In addition, we have a sizeable list of subscriber fire departments that pay a fee each year to be a member of our Northwest Regional Fire Training Center, which is a state of Michigan designation. By doing so, these fire departments can also send their personnel to training center for courses at a member-fee rate. This allows them the use of any of our facilities, including the Fire Facilities training tower.”
30 Years and Counting
Tuller, who has been a firefighter for 41 years, relates that, although the Lieutenant has taken lots of abuse over the years, it’s still structurally sound. “We hired a structural engineer to go over it to certify the training facility can still be used for live fire training events, per NFPA requirements,” says Tuller. “While the ceramic tiles had cracked to a point we had to remove them, the unit itself is in great shape. We added ¾-inch plywood and double-thickness drywall to enable the provision of small fuel package live-fire events for training. This structure has really held up to our needs over the years.
“Being able to provide live fire training in a controlled manner is a key positive of having the training tower available to us. Over the years the Lieutenant has enabled us to drive home a solid foundation of fundamental basics during our Fire Academy.”
Tuller was surprised to learn his hard-working tower was the first of its kind from Fire Facilities. “I understand it shipped out to us on August 29, 1991,” says Tuller. “The chiefs that worked to get the tower here so many years ago are all retired or passed away.
“Those of us remaining are a little proud of having the first tower. We’ve definitely put it through its paces for 30 years … and we intend to continue doing so for the next 30 years!”