By Dennis L. Rubin
The journey to plan, organize, staff and implement this major national fire rescue service conference took more than three years to complete. The process started with a small Ad Hoc team venturing to the home of Wingspread at the Johnson Foundation in Racine, Wisconsin. Three representatives respectfully met with the foundation President, Mr. Roger Dower. By the end of that day, a commitment was made to bring the Fire Rescue Wingspread Conference back on campus after a twenty year hiatus. The original location would once again become the host location for the sixth conference. This meeting represented the Golden Anniversary, with the first focus group being called to order on a morning in February 1966.
Some of our readers are likely wondering, “What is the Wingspread Conference?” The Johnson Foundation’s mission statement is: “to be a catalyst for positive and lasting change leading to healthier environments and communities.” To that end, various groups such as America’s Fire Rescue Service are invited by the Johnson Foundation to travel to the Northern Midwest. The purpose of this focused gathering is to identify significant strategic issues and pose potential solutions to society’s most serious fire-related problems. Further, the iconic Wingspread reception center designed by Frank Lloyd Wright is the crown jewel of this amazing campus and is the inspiration for the conference name.
The gathering of 43 fire-rescue service leaders, including VFIS President Troy Markel and VFIS Vice President Dr. Bill Jenaway, delivered fourteen statements of National Significance over three days of deliberations. Each statement includes a brief background statement and a focused action plan to reach listed goals within the ten year design. How can folks get their hands on a copy of the document? There are two ways to get access to this report. While supplies last, contact the National Fire Heritage Center at http://www.thenfhc.org. A printed copy can be requested and mailed at no cost. This service was funded by a grant from the Institute of Fire Engineers (United States of America Branch) and VFIS. For those electronically inclined, the Wingspread VI Report is hosted on many fire-rescue service internet sites, including ours.
Watch for more information on this emerging and important topic. Take the time to locate the report and become familiar with significant issues facing our industry. Perhaps attend a training session or listen to a podcast on the topic, as they will assuredly occur. Who knows, you may be invited to Wingspread VII, so be informed and ready. Until next time, be safe out there and do good work!