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June 17

INVEST IN FIRE SCIENCE TECHNOLOGY PROGRAM 20240503_FireScienceClass_FireTower-093.jpg


Through a grant funded by the Sunderland Foundation and Metropolitan Community College, a four-story fire science technology training tower has been added to the MCC Applied Technology Center location. Implemented for the 2024 spring quarter, the customizable, modular structure is expected to serve students and regional fire departments for the next two decades.

 The corrugated, galvanized steel, stackable training tower has an open floor plan and provides a flexible, safe space for advanced fire-rescue training activities. In addition to elevating the College’s Fire Science Technology program — the only educational institution in Nebraska to offer such a program — the infrastructure investment also aids resource-constrained regional fire departments. 

Many fire departments in the MCC four-county service area are volunteer agencies that stand to benefit from more accessible training opportunities offered by the new training tower.

“Every student, whether they’re in a high school academy or an adult learner in a working fire department, will benefit from the use of the tower because of its ability to create realistic situations firefighters would experience in the field, but in a safe, controlled environment,” said Jeffrey Strawn, MCC Fire Science Technology program director. 

The fire science training tower is a burn-free facility, which prevents exposure to carcinogens present during live firefighting. A smoke machine simulates the low visibility conditions firefighters experience in actual emergency response. From one location, the tower enables the following technical training exercises (and more) to be incorporated into the academic program, as well as the College’s advanced training workshops available to area departments:

• Advanced rappelling 
• Basic search and rescue 
• Confined space rescue 
• Forcible entry 
• Hazardous materials
• High- and low-angle rescue operations 
• Hose management • Incident command
• Ladder drills
• Roof venting
• Rope rescue
• Technical rescue
• Window entry

Strawn said students were previously able to access some of these training exercises at off-campus, community-based partner sites, which continue to serve the program. Having the full scope of training operations now available at the Applied Technology Center maximizes resources and the student’s time by providing them from a single site. 

“This building gives us the ability to do things on site that we had to either teach in theory before or leave campus to do. This helps us use the students’ time even more wisely,” Strawn said. 

On a recent tour of the new structure, Terry Barney, an MCC Fire Science Technology adjunct instructor and retired member of the Omaha Fire Department, demonstrated the flexibility of the space. With movable walls on the inside, floor plans can be changed, challenging students to rely on technique over memory. 

Performing a window rescue at the actual height it would take place on a ladder rather than simulating the technique on a shipping container at ground level is a closer representation of what a student will experience in the field. Barney said access to the tower will make MCC students more “street ready” because of the realistic training exposure it provides them.

“Whether throwing a 24- to 35-foot extension ladder or simulating the rescue of someone trapped on the second or third floor of an apartment building, being able to put students in several different training scenarios will make them better and smarter firefighters when they complete the program and go out to serve the community,” Barney said. 

MCC offers training and support to more than 20 regional fire departments, including the Omaha, Ralston, Fremont, Blair, Bennington and Gretna fire departments. The program plays a significant role in developing the first-responder workforce. Strawn said about a third of the 34-member November 2023 Omaha Fire Department recruiting class qualified by way of an MCC fire science program.

“The training tower is a huge benefit to the firefighting community because it supports the training needs of local jurisdictions well into the future. For departments serving areas like Springfield and Waterloo, putting a training tower on site would be a huge financial burden,” Strawn said.

High school students participating in the MCC Fire Science Career Academy will also use the new tower in their training exercises. Strawn said the program is grateful to have the support of the Sunderland Foundation and the MCC Board of Governors. 

“Our students are getting exposure they wouldn’t have received before that will help them get closer to a career in fire service and will strengthen the firefighter and first responder workforce,” Strawn said. 

The MCC Fire Science Technology program is recognized by the U.S. Fire Administration’s National Fire Academy. Visit for more information about the program.