The Commissioner Burn Tower

The Commissioner (above) and support from Fire Facilities have enhanced the fire training program at Green Bay’s Northeast Wisconsin Technical College.

A business with a Sun Prairie connection is credited with creating a real hot spot for a Green Bay technical college.

Since 2017, more than 3,500 people have trained on The Commissioner fire training tower at Northeast Wisconsin Technical College (NWTC).

The four-story structure from Fire Facilities, Inc. — owned by Sun Prairie-based Trachte Building Systems — provides real-life scenario training for students in the Wisconsin Technical System State Fire Training program and the Fire Medic and Fire Protection Technician Degree programs at NWTC.

“The Commissioner has been instrumental in providing our students with safe and NFPA compliant fire training,” said Jonathon Ladwig, fire safety coordinator and fire instructor at Northeast Wisconsin Technical College in Green Bay.

“Our previous training tower was constructed of wood walls and flooring,” Ladwig said. “The new Fire Facilities structure, made entirely of steel, provides us with a safety training environment that is easier to clean and maintain.”

The Commissioner includes three sections: a four-story fire training tower, a two-story residential section, and a one-story burn room annex. Within the residential section are interior and exterior stairs, two roof chop-out curbs, hallways, a burn room, and a burn area in an attic.

The 40-foot tall tower section includes interior decks and stairs, a ship’s ladder, parapet roof guard with chained opening, and a roof chop-out curb.

Unique training opportunities also exist by using The Commissioner’s cantilevered balcony, inset balcony and fire escape.

To make training even more rewarding, NWTC recently added interior rappelling anchors to The Commissioner.

According to Ladwig, this allows students to safely train on bailouts and through-the-floor rescue scenarios.

“In addition, our Commissioner model was specifically designed to allow firefighters to train for basement fire scenarios,” said Ladwig, who began his fire service career in 2004 and currently serves as Fire Chief at the Little River Fire Department in Oconto.

“This was a priority in response to a local firefighter who lost his life while battling a basement fire,” Ladwig added. “This training structure helps us simulate real life scenarios while keeping our students safe.”

One of Ladwig’s students who trained at NWTC from 2018-21 was James Truckey, who completed his Fire Medic Associate Degree along with his Fire Protection Technician Associate Degree and credits his fire training with preparing him for his career.

“The fire simulations in the burn tower are very realistic to real life situations,” said Truckey, now a firefighter with the City of Wausau Fire Department. “We were able to perform rescue operations from the drop down floor in the tower, along with bailing out of the burn tower windows. And, the dividers in the burn tower rooms simulate a multi-complex building for enhanced training opportunities.”

For recent graduate Darren Jacobsen, training on The Commissioner at NWTC prepared him for his current role as a firefighter for the City of Peshtigo.

“The live burn evolutions are by far the most interesting aspect of the training,” said Jacobsen, who graduated in 2020.

“Instructor Ladwig always took the extra time to challenge us,” Truckey added. “He made certain we had time to read the fire and the smoke before extinguishing. He also allowed us to use different fire attack methods so we could also have experience in that element.

“Since graduating I’ve been on interior attack and search teams for numerous structure fires. My training has made me 100% confident in those situations,” Truckey said. “I’m also confident on reading the thermo layering and understanding the elements of the fires after receiving instruction. The combination of Instructor Ladwig’s knowledge and the actual training in The Commissioner fully prepared me for my career in firefighting.”

High marks

Ladwig said both The Commissioner and the support from Fire Facilities Inc. have enhanced the training program at NWTC.

“If another fire chief asked me about The Commissioner, I’d highly recommend the training structure,” said Ladwig. “The level of customer service that Fire Facilities has provided NWTC is unmatched. When our tower got damaged from a training session the team from Fire Facilities arrived within days to make the repairs. I’ve found both the company and the structure are highly dependable.”

Fire Facilities, Inc. (FFI) manufactures a full line of steel fire training structures engineered to withstand real-life firefighting conditions. Parent company Trachte Building Systems, located in the Sun Prairie Business Park, is one of the largest and oldest manufacturers of steel self-storage systems in the industry. For more information about FFI, visit

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