Fire Service Mourns Passing of Icon

Fire Service Mourns Passing of Icon

James O. Page, widely considered the father of fire-based EMS in America, died suddenly Sept. 4. Page was stricken by a massive heart attack as he was swimming at a health club near his home in Carlsbad, Calif. Page, 68, had no known history of heart disease.

Page was an EMS advocate and leader, attorney with a specialty in emergency services, speaker, author, and publisher. Founder of The Journal of Emergency Medical Services, he was named one of the 20 most influential fire service leaders of the 20th century by Fire Chief magazine in 2000.

Page’s long and varied career in emergency services started in the mid-1950s, when he worked as a private ambulance attendant in Los Angeles County. He later served as a firefighter in Monterey Park, Calif., and joined the Los Angeles County Fire Department in 1959.

During 14 years at LACFD, he rose to become a battalion chief, commanding a 60-square-mile battalion in south Los Angeles – while coordinating and implementing a countywide paramedic service. During this period, he completed his undergraduate education and law school and served as a technical consultant and writer for the TV series Emergency. Page had been a licensed California attorney since 1971.

In 1973, Page accepted the new position of chief of EMS for North Carolina, where he implemented a statewide program of emergency medical care and rescue services. He then moved north to become the executive director of a federally funded project to improve EMS in upstate New York.

From 1976 to 1983, Page served as executive director of the Advanced Coronary Treatment Foundation and developed programs to upgrade emergency medical services throughout the country. In 1979, he founded JEMS, one of the world’s most respected sources of EMS information.

Page was also the technical support services program manager for the U.S. Fire Administration, where he managed a national program of consulting and technical assistance for fire and EMS agencies.

He returned to the fire service in 1984 as a battalion chief in Carlsbad, Calif. Two years later, he was appointed fire chief of Monterey Park, Calif. He retired from Monterey Park in 1989, and returned to the full-time position of publisher at JEMS.

Page has written five books and more than 400 magazine articles and editorials, presented over 800 speeches, and provided consulting for more than 100 cities, counties and fire districts throughout the United States, Canada, Australia, New Zealand, Kuwait and Japan. In 1996 he was a participant in the Wingspread IV conference.

Perhaps the most prominent among his many honors came in 1995, when the International Association of Fire Chiefs recognized his life’s work with the new James O. Page EMS Achievment Award, the organization’s highest recognition for individual leadership in EMS.

Page retired from JEMS Communications in December 2001 and was given the title publisher emeritus. A partner in Page, Wolfberg and Wirth, a national law firm specializing in emergency services law with offices in California and Pennsylvania, Page continued to be a prolific writer and speaker on fire and EMS issues.

He is survived by his mother, Marion; his wife, Jane; four children; and six grandchildren.

In a look back at Page’s life at, Michael J. Ward, assistant professor of emergency medicine at George Washington University, says he thought Page would live forever. In his achievements to better the world he lived in and in the lives saved each day by EMS personnel his leadership helped foster, he will.

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