In 1970, Chief Rothwell Swain retired after 41 years of service. In March of the same year, Lewis Wright was appointed the position of fire Chief. He had joined our department in 1952, and had worked his way through the ranks. This was a continuation of our department’s policy of promoting individuals from within our own ranks. It was shortly after his appointment that the California Legislature passed the Mobile Intensive Care Unit Paramedic Act. This act provided that certain individuals, trained to very high standards, would be certified to provide specific medical emergency techniques in the field, and they would be certified “Paramedics”. A special team of five firefighters began training at South Bay Hospital to participate in the most advanced primary responder medical training available. They completed their training July 14, 1973, and were immediately put into service, saving the life of a teen age boy that same afternoon. It soon became evident, however, that the vehicle assigned to the Paramedics was inadequate, and through a fund drive launched in Spring, 1973, $13,000 was raised for the purchase of a new van. Everyone participated in the fund drive, including the Kiwanis, who sponsored a July circus. Our city councilmen even pumped gas, and there was a buffet dinner at one of the local restaurants. Everyone got involved, and many more events followed. The end result was a new paramedic van, painted a distinctive yellow, equipped with all the advanced medical equipment needed for this new realm of patient care.
Tremendous media excitement accompanied the beginning of this new era of in-field medical treatment. “Emergency”, a drama series that ran from January 22, 1972 until September 3, 1977, featured our two favorite paramedics, Johnny Gage and Roy DeSoto on Squad 51 of the Los Angeles County Fire Department. They saved everyone they touched, and always transported to the famous Rampart Hospital. This show launched the paramedic program into the national limelight, and it has remained a fixture of fire department services to this day. We have advanced our skill levels and equipment considerably since then. Our modern paramedics are now capable of delivering emergency room level patient care in the field. On our department, everyone is, or has been, a certified paramedic. Every Manhattan Beach fire apparatus you see is manned with certified and extremely well trained paramedics.
Since the 1970’s, the fire service has continued to evolve into the very effective service you see daily on the streets of Manhattan Beach. We have had several chiefs since those days, including Tom Wilson, Keith Hackamack, and Dennis Groat.