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MAAC: A new home for Indiana's emergency services training

A chief's legacy inspires an intra-agency cooperative training classroom and live-action training facility establishing teamwork between fire, EMS, police and hazmat


By Kerri Hatt, FireRescue1 Senior Editor

Stewart McMillan’s earliest memory is of riding back to the fire station on the knee of a Chicago Lieutenant on Squad 2 when he was six years old. As Chief Clyde McMillan, Stewart's father, grew the Gary Fire Task Force, Stewart spent weekends helping to rebuild old fire apparatus. It was in the fall of 1982, when Stewart, at the age of 28, became president of Task Force Tips, Inc. after his father passed away.

Stewart has always had a passion for emergency service training. “My father always believed that the heart of the fire service was in the training officers,” Stewart says. “While the chief is off taking care of personnel issues, the training officer is innovating the fire department, and making sure people gain news skills and can do the job.”

Firefighters gear up for training at the MAAC emergency services training facility. (Photo/The Multi Agency Academic Cooperative Foundation)
Firefighters gear up for training at the MAAC emergency services training facility. (Photo/The Multi Agency Academic Cooperative Foundation)

When Task Force Tips’ vice president of international sales, Nathan Calabrese, joined the local fire department, and shared his training requirements with Stewart, that passion turned to action. Calabrese and his fellow volunteers spent four hours, two nights a week, and 8 hours over the weekend for six months to obtain their Indiana certification as volunteer firefighters. “When I heard the training requirements he had to go through, I was stunned,” Stewart recalls.

And he was bothered that the volunteers had to travel from fire station to station to train, “they never had a permanent home,” he says. “I thought it was just downright disrespectful to these people that volunteered their time to treat them this way, and not have a facility that gave them the training and made it fun – to help them feel the brotherhood of the fire department.”

Largest intra-agency training facility in Indiana

Through his family’s charitable organization, The McMillan Family Foundation, led by Celina Weatherwax, in partnership with the Indiana District 1 Firefighter Training Council; and with the help of Ward Barnett, academy director; and a leadership team comprised of emergency services leaders and lay people, the Multi Agency Academic Cooperative was born. Coined “MAAC,” in honor of McMillan senior, the training facility is the first joint public/private initiative of its kind in the state striving to ensure first responders are trained to face the challenges they encounter every day.

MAAC’s mission is to develop and maintain training opportunities for firefighters, police officers and EMS. The facility will serve the five counties of Northwest Indiana as the most extensive fire training facility in the state.

MAAC is dedicated to supporting and meeting the needs of existing Indiana District 1 training sites in partnership with Indiana District 1 Firefighter Training Council to effectively and efficiently provide fire service training to all District 1 firefighters, ensuring that national firefighting standards are met; quality of training and experience of fire instructors are sufficient; and that the core elements and foundation of an effective fire training system is established and maintained for future generations of firefighters.

Unique, hands-on training campus

In addition to classroom instruction under Indiana Department of Homeland Security District 1 instructors, the MAAC offers a realistic, hands-on approach to emergency services training.

The MAAC training campus has one-, two- and four-story structures with multiple roof lines, access points and cut-outs fore ventilation training. (Photo/FireRescue1 staff)

The MAAC training campus is made up of approximately 4 ½ acres in Valparaiso, Indiana, and was designed to allow multiple training evolutions or departments to use the field at any given time. The field consists of the following:

  • The four-story structure and drill tower has multiple entry points from both the external stair tower and interior stairs.
  • The two-story residential structure replicates a single family home with an open concept design.
  • The one-story structure has a both a flat roof section and a pitch roof section with cut-out sections for ventilation training.
  • The live fire burn building is a Class A two-story residential burn building with three separate burn areas and multiple entry points.
  • The flashover unit allows observation of fire behavior three feet below the fire floor.
Controlling flames on the MAAC fire extinguisher training pad. (Photo/the Multi Agency Academic Cooperative [MAAC] Foundation)

All systems on campus are designed and manufactured to meet NFPA requirements. Cargo shipping containers outfitted with overhead doors allow easy retrieval of fire training props including:

  • Ventilation
  • Forcible entry
  • Propane live fire training props, including dumpsters
  • Fire extinguisher training – a series of props that simulate Class A combustible material, Class B flammable liquid or Class C electrical fires
  • A hazmat area simulating various leak and spill scenarios involving common containers and transportation vehicles.
  • A drill/extrication area
  • A 20,000-gallon drafting pond featuring two dry hydrants and concrete drafting pads to support all weather operations

Four fire hydrants serve provide city water pressure during normal usage with the capability of higher pressures when supported by the on-site fire pump.

An apparatus building with an open bay area and about 6,000 square feet of open floor space allows indoor training in inclement weather. It contains an indoor ladder/rescue prop wooden multi-room structure for laddering, small-scale VEIS drills, Pittsburgh drills from a second-floor stairway, and ladder slide/bailout with fall protection.

Ribbon cutting marks the MAAC grand opening

The MAAC celebrated its grand opening with a ribbon cutting ceremony on Sept. 16, 2017, with demonstrations, and tours of the facility. During the ceremony, Stewart McMillan was named first fire chief of the MAAC.

State of Indiana Fire Marshall James Greeson presents an award to Stewart McMillan, first fire chief of the MAAC, while Bryan J. Langley, State of Indiana Homeland Security executive director looks on. (Photo/FireRescue1 staff)

The MAAC is called the academic cooperative, to reflect its overall goal of training all agencies. “I wanted to make a place that was inviting to EMS, hazmat, fire and police so that they all felt like they had ownership in it – they could train together and work together as a team,” Stewart says.

It’s not just for fire, and it’s not tied to a specific department, “it’s bigger than that,” Stewart tells FireRescue1. “And it looks like from the way things are shaping up, we’ve accomplished our goal.”The MAAC Foundation is a non-profit organization and is tax-exempt under section 501(c)(3) of the Internal Revenue Code. You can donate to directly support the training of Northwest Indiana's first responders by clicking here.

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