Ed's Note: To view additional photos from the event, see www.facebook.com/emsworldfans.
July 9, Carson, CA--On a beautiful summer's day in Southern California, approximately 2,500 people turned out for 51 In Quarters, hosted by the Los Angeles County Fire Museum and held at the Robert A. Cinader Memorial Fire Station 127 in Carson, CA.
The event saw the unveiling of the newly restored Ward LaFrance "Engine 51" from the groundbreaking television series EMERGENCY!, reuniting it with the equally iconic "Squad 51." Both vehicles will be exhibited at the Musuem's Bellflower, CA, facility.
51 In Quarters was hosted at Fire Station 127, which doubled on-camera as the fictional "Station 51," home to TV firefighter/paramedics John Gage and Roy DeSoto on the NBC television drama, which ran in prime time from 1972-1977, followed by a series of two-hour movies that aired in 1978 and 1979.
Actor Randolph Mantooth, who played Johnny Gage, and Mike Stoker, the real-life Los Angeles County firefighter who played engineer Mike Stoker on EMERGENCY!, were both in attendance.
"It was 32 years ago that this show went off the air," Mantooth said during the opening ceremonies. "It is the little show that won't die. I am overwhelmed by the fact that you guys would travel as far as you have. I never thought that this show would have the impact it has had on emergency medicine. It was the greatest seven years of my life."
Delaware North Companies was recognized at the event for facilitating the return of "Engine 51." After the show ended, the Ward LaFrance engine was stationed on the Universal Studios back lot until being put in service in 1993 as DNC Engine 7 in Yosemite National Park, where it remained until it was retired from active duty. The Ward LaFrance was welcomed back on August 8, 2008, and has been undergoing restoration to its original specs and condition since that time.
The event also saw the announcement of the winner of the World's Biggest EMERGENCY! Fan contest. Thirteen finalists were in attendance, with the award given to Scott C. Williams from Onoway, Alberta, who recreated a model of Fire Station 127 at his home, complete with a fire truck. While Scott had to wait a little longer than most to first see the show--episodes were not broadcast in Canada until 1976--it was pivotal in determining his choice of career. "I spent eight years in EMS and would not have done that were it not for the show."
Fans of the show traveled from far and wide to attend the event. R. Gregory Showalter came from Huntington, WV, where he serves as a critical care paramedic for Cabell County EMS. Wearing a uniform identical to Johnny and Roy's, Showalter explained what the show meant to him: "EMERGENCY! led me to be become a paramedic. Even now, I ask myself what would Johnny and Roy do on certain calls. The show still holds up after all this time. Our equipment may be better, but the calls are the same. This show educated the public en masse about what paramedics do and led to thousands of people becoming firefighters and paramedics. Because of that, the show is responsible for saving millions of lives. It was more than just entertainment."
The NBC Universal television series EMERGENCY! broke new ground in both the entertainment industry and the fire service. Often referred to as the first reality-based television show, EMERGENCY! introduced the American public to the then-revolutionary concept of using specially trained firefighters to provide advanced lifesaving services. In the early 1970s, very few people had ever heard the word "paramedic." At the time the show debuted on January 15, 1972, only 12 paramedic squads were in service in the entire country--8 of them in Los Angeles County. By the end of the show’s 7-year run, more than half of U.S. citizens were within 4 to 7 minutes of advanced lifesaving care.
In addition to the popular EMERGENCY! vehicles, the Los Angeles County Fire Museum owns over 60 apparatus, hundreds of artifacts and thousands of photographs that tell the history of the U.S. fire service, with a special emphasis on the Los Angeles County Fire Department. For more information, see www.lacountyfiremuseum.com.
- The EMS Squadcast--February 2011--Randolph Mantooth
- The Stars That Popularized Paramedicine