Late 1960’s

Dr. Walter Graf, at Daniel Freeman Memorial Hospital, pioneered the concept of the Coronary Care Rescue ambulance. Simultaneously, Dr. J. Michael Criley launched a program at Harbor General Hospital that utilized firefighters to respond to medical emergencies.

August 1, 1969

McCormick Ambulance company utilized a large white vehicle staffed with a coronary care nurse-on call, to respond to heart attack victims from Daniel Freeman Hospital.

August 1969

Six firefighters from the Los Angeles County Fire Department began their training at Harbor General Hospital.

Dec. 8, 1969

Squad 59, the first Los Angeles County Fire rescue unit, headquartered in a small fire station on the grounds of Harbor General Hospital, officially went into service. Coronary Care Unit nurses from Harbor rode along to supervise field care because there was no legislation permitting paramedics to practice.

July 14, 1970

The Wedworth-Townsend Paramedic Act was signed into law by Governor Ronald Reagan and the first paramedic were officially “certified.”

January 1972

The show EMERGENCY! produced by Robert Cinader was first televised. This series raised public awareness of the paramedic program and, as a result, such programs sprang up throughout the country.


The paramedic program expanded as many other cities sent fire department personnel to paramedic training. L.A. County received a federal grant to fund the training.


Dr. Ronald Stewart, an emergency medicine physician, was placed in charge of the paramedic training program and expanded the training to cover a myriad of prehospital health care emergencies. Dr. Stewart modified the paramedic curriculum and wrote his own unique “paramedic training manuals,” consisting of four volumes.

Late 1970’s

Continuing education programs were put into place, along with a new process, which included written and skills examinations, requiring paramedics to “recertify.”

Late 1979

The EMS Commission was established by County Ordinance.

November 1980

The Emergency Medical Service and Emergency Medical Care Personnel Act (SB125) was signed into law mandating State responsibility for emergency medical services by designation of a local EMS Agency. The County Board of Supervisor authorized the Department of Health Services to fill this role.

Dec. 15, 1983

The first eight Level I trauma hospitals were designated and activated by the Board of Supervisors.


Hospitals with capability of handling specialized needs of children were designated as Emergency Departments Approved for Pediatrics and Pediatric Critical Care Centers.

Late 1980’s

Testing and certification of paramedics was transferred from the local counties to the State.

July 1994

By statute, paramedic certification was changed to “licensure” and testing was eliminated from the relicensure process.

May 2019

Fifty years of EMS services were celebrated at the Los Angeles County Fire Museum.