Wingspread IV

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...


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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.

About Wingspread

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.

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