A compass that would direct firefighters through unfamiliar and treacherous burning buildings started as a seed of an idea thought up by veteran firefighter Jeff Dykes.

In three years, the Eau Claire fire captain’s idea turned into his own business, Northern Star Fire, which gained international interest and propelled Dykes to the national stage, where today he is one of 100 small-business owners who will participate in a roundtable with President Donald Trump at the White House.

He flies out this morning to greet the president as part of a discussion entitled American Small Business — The Engine of the American Dream — set to take place at 2 p.m. Central time.

“That’s pretty cool stuff,” he said of the invitation. “It’s not every day the president of the United States requests your company.”

Dykes — an employee of the Eau Claire Fire Department since 1999, an instructor for the Wisconsin Technical College System and a paramedic — developed a lighted eight-directional compass that attaches to the inside of a firefighter’s helmet from his own experience battling flames.

“Every structure is a little different,” Dykes said. “If you close your eyes, that’s what you see. If you turn a flashlight on, it makes it worse sometimes. There’s a thousand different things that run through a firefighter’s head.”

And it doesn’t take long to get disoriented, said fire Deputy Chief Jon Schultz. Read the full story here.