The year 1996 is significant for the American fire service. First, the National Fire Protection Association turned 100 years old in 1996. After the tremendous support that NFPA has provided to our business, it was only fitting that a centennial celebration was staged in May.
Next, our very own Firehouse Magazine turns 20 this year. It is hard to believe that Dennis Smith's vision of a complete periodical for the fire service family is reaching this milestone. I'm pleased to have this report appear in this anniversary edition.
Finally, a less-publicized (but very important) fire service event will take place this year as well. The stage has been set for the Wingspread IV Conference. This article will discuss the role that the Wingspread Confer-ences have played and some insight into what the future may hold.
Wingspread Conferences have been conducted by the Johnson Foundation in Racine, WI. The foundation was created by S.C. Johnson & Son Inc. (the manufacturer of wax products). History reflects that the name Wingspread comes from the architect Frank Lloyd Wright. Wright designed a home for the H.F. Johnson family in the late 1930s. In 1959, H.F. Johnson donated the home to the foundation to serve as the conference center. An additional building has been donated to the conference center by the Johnsons to support this growing effort. The Wingspread name and tradition continues at the foundation to this day.
The Wingspread Conferences are intensive meetings of a small number of technical specialists gathered to address issues or problems. The selected professionals are asked to clearly and precisely define problems associated with their business. In most cases, the conferences are conducted for organizations that can help with significant social concerns. The conference attendees develop action plans to solve the identified problems.
Further, the foundation helps to create effective coalitions to help all groups involved reach the envisioned solution. The meetings are designed to lead to effective outcomes to solve identified problems. Many Wing-spread Conferences have been held on various topics.
The First 3 Conferences
In 1966, a small, distinguished group of fire service leaders was summoned to convene the first fire Wingspread Conference. The national fire service leaders of the day who attended the event were Chief William Clark, Dr. Donald Favreau, Chief David Gratz, Chief John O'Hagan, Keith Royer, Chief Lester Schick, Chief Henry Smith, Chief Curtis Volkhamer, Robert Byrus and Chief Keith Klinger. With this distinguished group, the "Wingspread Conference on Fire Service Admini-stration, Education and Research" was conducted. The results of their efforts were 12 well-defined problem statements of national significance. Along with these 12 statements, they developed expanded discussion about each problem which pointed us toward solutions.
One concept addressed at the first Wingspread Conference was that the process of gathering a selected group to discuss significant problems should occur every 10 years. To that end, Wingspread II was convened in 1976 with many of the 1966 participants in attendance. The Johnson Foundation was once again the host. Along with Clark, Gratz, Royer and Smith, the following were present: Chief William Foley, Martin Grimes, David Lucht, Paul Pribyl, Chief Charles Rule and Lieutenant Thomas White. This conference also netted 12 problem statements of national significance. The third conference was held on time in 1986. Clark, Gratz, Royer and Foley attended in conjunction with newcomers Chief Alan Brunacini, Bill Randleman, Chief J.C. Robertson and Nancy Dennis Trench. This group developed a list of 10 problem statements and solutions.
That takes us to present. Wing-spread IV was set to convene Oct. 23-25, 1996. The venue was changed to Dothan, AL, sponsored by the Dothan Fire Department and the IAFC (International Association of Fire Chiefs) Foundation. The reason for moving the conference is based on changes at the Johnson Foundation, which is not able to financially support this program. Richard Keith, senior program officer at the foundation, extended his wishes for a successful Wingspread IV. Further, the foundation applauds the fire service's efforts to keep the vision of Wingspread alive. Brunacini, chief of the Phoenix Fire Department, was to preside at the conference. Look for coverage of Wing-spread IV in an upcoming issue (Fire-house Editor-in-Chief Harvey Eisner was the public information officer).
The mission of continuous im-provement of services to our customers is never ending. The fourth conference should keep the momentum going and help us look to the future. Speaking of the future, Yogi Berra may have said it best: "The future ain't what it used to be."
Wingspread 1 1966
- Unprecedented demands are being imposed on the fire service by rapid social and technological change.
- The public is complacent toward the rising trend of life and property loss by fire.
- There is a serious lack of communications between the public and the fire service.
- Behavior patterns of the public have a direct influence on the fire problem.
- The insurance interest has exerted a strong influence on the organization of the fire service. This dominance seems to be waning. The fire service must provide the leadership in establishing realistic criteria for determining proper levels of fire protection.
- Professional status begins with education.
- The scope, degree and depth of the educational requirements for efficient functioning of the fire service must be examined.
- Increased mobility at the executive level of the fire service will be important to the achievement of professional status.
- The career development of the fire executive must be systematic and deliberate.
- Governing bodies and municipal administrators generally do not recognize the need for executive development of the fire officer.
- Fire service labor and management, municipal officers and administrators must join together if professionalism is to become a reality.
- The traditional concept that fire protection is strictly a responsibility of local government must be re-examined.
Wingspread II 1976
- New criteria are needed to measure the impact of fire on the national economy and public welfare.
- Productivity in the fire service is difficult to measure reliably.
- The state level of government may have to make a renewed commitment in dealing with the fire problem.
- The fire service should approach the concept of regionalization without bias.
- There is need for better liaison between the fire service and those who build or design buildings.
- A means of deliberate and systematic development of all fire service personnel though the executive level is still needed. There is an educational void near the top.
- The firefighter has been depressed by narrow education and confining experiences on his job.
- The problem of arson in the United States has increased to the point where it should be considered a matter of major importance.
- Fire departments should thoroughly analyze new demands being placed upon them before accepting new responsibilities.
- It appears that residential smoke detectors hold the most practical potential at this time for saving lives. The fire service should take leadership in encouraging their widespread use and proper maintenance.
- Traditional fire loss management concepts should be reviewed.
- The fire service should assume more responsibility and leadership in fire loss management.
Wingspread III 1986
- Society in general appears unwilling to take full advantage of the knowledge and technology which has proven effective in mitigating the fire problem.
- Public fire safety education will not achieve its potential until it is organized in a systematic manner based on human behavior.
- Professional development in the fire service has made significant strides but improvement is still needed.
- Decision makers in local government need better criteria to determine an adequate level of cost-effective fire protection.
- The fire service should review the effectiveness of the federal fire programs of the U.S. Fire Administration and the National Fire Academy to determine if they are of continued benefit in reducing the fire problem.
- The traditional role of the fire department is changing.
- Analyzing America's fire problem requires a more effective system of data collection.
- The misuse of alcohol and controlled substances is a serious fire service problem.
- There is a need for increased emphasis on firefighter safety and health.
- Personnel management in the fire service is becoming increasingly more complex.
Dennis L. Rubin, a Firehouse® contributing editor, is chief of the Dothan, AL, Fire Department.