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BIOGRAPHY
JAMES O. PAGE
Pioneer of Paramedicine

 

visionary · paramedic
"Emergency!"

James O. PageJames O. Page was a giant figure in the history of the Los Angeles County Fire Department. Since his sudden death on September 4, 2004, the fire service publishing world was first on scene via the internet to tell the amazing story of his life. When he was laid to rest in Carlsbad, California, by his family, colleagues and friends. History will remember him as one of the most influential fire chiefs in the fire service in the 20th century.*

Jim Page began his fire service career in 1957. While working his way through the ranks he completed his undergraduate education and law school at night. He has been a licensed California attorney since 1971. As a Battalion Chief with Los Angeles County, he coordinated the implementation of the Department’s paramedic rescue services. At the same time, he served as technical consultant and writer for the “Emergency!” television series. In 1973, he took a deferred retirement from the fire department and spent ten years based on the east coast – as Chief of EMS for the State of North Carolina, and as Executive Director of the non-profit ACT (Advanced Coronary Treatment) Foundation.

In 1979, he founded Jems Communications, publishers of JEMS (Journal of Emergency Medical Services) and FireRescue Magazine. In 1984, Jim returned to the California fire service. In 1989, he retired as Fire Chief for the City of Monterey Park and returned to full-time service as President of Jems Communications. In 1995 he was honored by the International Association of Fire Chiefs when they created the annual “James O. Page Award of Excellence.” In 2000, he was featured by Fire Chief Magazine as one of the 20 most influential fire chiefs of the 20th Century. He served on the Museum's board of dirctors from 1996.


*Article from "Headlines," a special publication by the County of Los Angeles Fire Department

Los Angeles County Fire Department historian, Retired Fire Captain Dave Boucher, interviewed Retired LACoFD Battalion Chief James O. Page on June 27, 2000. In his 34-minute interview, Chief Page shared facts and firefighter folklore, some is included in this article. He told Boucher, "It's always good to come home to the Los Angeles County Fire Department."

In 2000, Fire Chief magazine ranked Jim Page as one of the most influential fire chiefs in the fire service in the 20th century, his name resting alphabetically just a few below LACoFD Fire Chief Emeritus Keith Klinger on the list. He humbly shared with Boucher in the interview that "being considered in the same league as Chief Klinger made my skin tingle." In 1995, he was also honored by the International Association of Fire Chiefs when he became the first recipient of the annual "James O. Page Award of Excellence."

How did this firefighter from Los Angeles become such a vocal giant in the world of Emergency Medical Services?

"Jim Page was a visionary. When the paramedic program came along, he saw further than others," said Los Angleles County Fire Chief P. Michael Freeman. "His skill and penchant for writing played a key role in helping the fire service step into a new realm. He paved the superhighway by taking the paramedic concept a quantum leap forward."

Born and raised in the Los Angeles suburb of Monterey Park, California, Page became a firefighter and served his local community for 26 months before joining LACoFD in 1959. His first assignment was Fire James and Rescue 11Station 11 in Altadena, a small foothill community adjacent to Pasadena in the unincorporated area of the County. He drove a 1947 Ford half-ton panel truck with a 100 horsepower, V-8 engine, "vastly overloaded with tools and only a six-volt elelctrical system." The system was so weak that the lights and siren could not be turned on at the same time. Still, he was trhilled to have it.

Page worked for a short while as Engineer (now known as "fire Fighter Specialist"), including a stint at Fire Station 82. He had already passed the written test and practiced for the Captain's oral exam while sizing up his competition. Needless to say, he ranked number one on the list, and was soon promoted and assigned to Fire Station 69 in the Agoura area. It was a totally new experience for Page - up to this point he had only worked as a "flatlander" (a somewhat endearing term for firefighters serving urban areas and unfamiliar with wildland brush response). Adjusting to his new atmosphere, Page felt like he was being taken out of the County Fire Department. He was reminded that he was still in it when he met his Battalion Chief, the legendary Harvey Anderson, a stern and demanding leader from whom Page credits much of his fine-tuning as he entered his thirties.

"Harvey forced me to come to grips with some of my personality quirks," he told Boucher. "He won -- but I benefited."

While fully engulfed with his fire service career, Page's energies were simultaneously spent on his days off studying for an undergraduate degree and later a law degree in 1971 from Southwestern Law School.

A critical juncture occurred in Pages' life when he transferred to Fire Station 7 in Hollywood. On May 11, 1971, he received a call from Dick Friend, the Department's public information officer, informing him that a young producer named Robert Cinadar would be stopping by the station to speak about fire rescue. Page was responsble for implementing the Deparment's Countywide paramedic rescue program, a challenge he enthrusiatically accepted.

James and Squad 51Like most firefighters, they set a place for Cinadar at the kitchen table and played cards after dinner; whomever lost did the dishes. After dinner, Cinadar was up to his elbows in suds," Page shared. That evening spent at the fire station only served to billow Cinadar's interest in developing a network television show based on the Department's emerging paramedic rescue program. Page was the natural choice to serve as lead technical advisor to the producers. Sponsored by the Writer's Guild, Page actually wrote some of the material for the show and became vocal when scenes didn't quite reflect reality. In fact, rescue scenes from the show were so realistic that many fire departments used videotaped episodes as instructional material.

Although his involvement with the six-year-run of the hit series ended in the summer of 1973 after two successful seasons, the exciting occupation portrayed on the small screen ignited interest across America. Suddenly, a new profession was born, as emergency medical services programs were established and inextricably woven into the fire service.

"Firefighters were now medical professionals, thanks to Jim Page," says LACoFD Medical Director Franklin Pratt, M.D. "He helped develop fire-based EMS for the world - he was that kind of thinker."

After Pratt became Medical Director of LACoFD in 1984, he found himself giving medical talks alongside Jim Page.

"He forced us to rethink our assumptions. He wasn't afraid to speak up in his editorials. His legacy includes his ability to question the status quo and be an objective critical thinker."

Page was a "firefighter after all, " Pratt added. "History will ackowledge his strong advocacy for the firefighter on the street."

From 1973 until his return to California in 1984, Page took on other challenges on the east coast, including Chief of EMS for the State of North Carolina, and executive director of the Advanced Coronary Treatment Foundation. In 1979, he found JEMS, the Journal of Emergency Medical Services. He told Boucher that he "needed to create a voice, a communications medium" for EMS professionals around the world. He also launched Fire Rescue magazine, in which his popular "Burning Issues" column appeared.

James Over the years, Page published five books, 400 magazine articles and presented more than 800 public speeches on his favorite topics. He told Boucher that he racked up over two million airline miles in doing what he loved: talking about EMS isssues.

In December 2001, he retired from JEMS Communications and wsa given the title of Publisher Emeritus. He continued his work as a partner in the national EMS law firm of Page, Wolfberg and Wirth and, of course, as a speaker. His love of vintage fire and rescue vehicles gave him the perfect reason to return to LACoFD as the president of the board of directors of the County of Los Angeles Fire Museum Association. His fruitful work during the last four years of his life with some of his old buddies will be missed.

"I invited Jim to attend one of our meetings in 1997 and he became hooked on the Musuem Association," said Boucher, also a board member. "He saw that we needed help and it was a challenge for him. He got our act together as no one else could have due to his many skills and interest in the fire service and EMS. He was a good friend. He always said that it was fun to work with a group who were friends."

In four short years, Page rewrote the Association's by laws to conform with present day legalities. More importantly he established fixed accounts (insurance and building funds) to provide stability and growth to support future projects. Always a communicator, Page personally supervised development of its website, privatized the merchandising effort and contracted the production of their newsletter.

"For us, it is a catastrophic loss," said Boucher.

The Association has renamed their building fund as the "CLAFMA James O. Page Memorial Building Fund" in his honor.

"It was Jim's dream, along with ours, to see a Museum for the public become a reality. We pledge to continue our work to see that his dream is fulfilled," said Joe Woyjeck, Association Vice President.

Like the many rigs he so loved that served faithfully and found a place to rest in good company, so has Jim Page found his place to rest - back home to the Los Angeles County Fire Department.

At the request of the Page family, please send donations to the Los Angeles County Fire Museum Association,9834 Flora Vista St. Bellflower, CA 90706. Stipulate that your donation is for the James O. Page Memorial Building Fund. We would all thank you.

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