Share / Discuss

‘Disneyland for Firefighters’

Steve Schwartz ’84 leads a dynamic duo that creates dynamic demos

Despite the fact that Steve Schwartz ’84 is CEO of a company that works daily with first responders, he never wanted to be a firefighter—his great love was building things with Legos.

So it makes sense that he earned a degree in mechanical engineering from Swarthmore. A greater leap in logic concerns how that background led him to an MBA from Northwestern University and heading up the 116-year-old LION uniform company in Dayton, Ohio. The easy answer? LION Group Inc. was started by Schwartz’s great-grandfather, making him and his brother, Andy, LION’s general counsel, fourth-generation leaders.

 But it’s not their great-grandpa’s business. The company is “probably on LION 4.0,” in terms of the business’ evolution, Schwartz says, moving from uniforms to focus on personal protective clothing for first responders and military logistics. LION’s most recent upgrade added firefighting training—using traditional propane flames and now 21st-century digital flames created on LED screens.

 BullEx, the company’s newest division, provides digital fire simulators with LED screens that produce “proprietary flame algorithms”—aka fires—with artificial smoke. Both react to where either real or virtual water is aimed. These simulators, combined into metal props such as stoves, vehicles, or bedroom sets, are added to training structures, creating a “Disneyland for firefighters,” says Schwartz, where the training drills can be dynamic, changeable, and realistic.

 A flame and smoke simulator created by BullEx landed the company on a Today Show segment that showed what it would be like for a family to be in a burning house.

 While Schwartz, who lives in Cincinnati, doesn’t use his engineering degree in a traditional sense, “the thought process learned from my Swarthmore engineering days is a valuable skill for thinking about problems,” he says.