|Fire Station 18 - In Their Own Words|
In 1970, the first classes of paramedics would begin their training. One class was training at Harbor General Hospital under the guidance of Dr. Michael J. Criley, while the other class was conducted at Daniel Freeman Hospital under the watchful eye of Dr. Walter Graf. It is the latter program that involved six firefighter volunteers from Fire Station 18. Upon their graduation, Rescue Squad 18 was placed into service, providing a whole new level of care to the citizens of Lennox. Due to the overwhelming success of the paramedic program, in 1972, the Board of Supervisors decided to expand it to cover all of the Fire Department’s 27 rescue units.
Enter the United States Coast Guard (USCG). In an effort to always provide the highest level of care to the public, the USCG approached the Los Angeles County Fire Department about providing paramedic service for medical transfers from Catalina Island and the rest of the Channel Islands to the mainland of California. Both parties involved saw benefits and the service commenced. Squad 38 (which later became Squad 58), was chosen as the likely candidate, as their run volume was not too high and they were close to the airport. When the call came in, both paramedics would respond to the USCG Air Station, their squad would be put out of service and Squad 18 would move-up to their jurisdiction for coverage. This program worked well for the many years. When Squad 38 was moved to new Fire Station 58, the climate began to change: Squad 58’s run load increased and it became less convenient to move-up Squad 18.
Enter Fire Fighter Paramedic Joseph P. Coffey. When Joe arrived at station 18 in 1982, he was a gung-ho, give-it-all new paramedic. His attention was immediately captured by the opportunity to fly with the USCG and provide paramedic service of the coast off California. With great enthusiasm, he began the necessary research, writing countless memos and making dozens of phone calls along the way. Joe pointed out that Squad 18 was much closer (approximately 3-4 miles closer) than Squad 58 to the airport and that it made more sense to send Squad 18 to cover them. It took two persistent years, but in 1984, the honor of flying with the USCG was transferred to Fire Station 18.
Familiarization training begun immediately, as the paramedics had to become familiar with the USCG's standard operating procedures, lowering and hoisting procedures and crash survival procedures. A new program of reciprocal training was also established for the first time, allowing not only the paramedics to train with the USCG in their procedures, but allowed the USCG EMT’s to ride along with the Ffire Department to become familiar with our procedures. A strong, new relationship had begun.
The USCG made a major change in the mid-1980’s from the larger style helicopter which could carry both paramedics to a smaller, faster, more streamlined model. This made it possible to only take one paramedic on calls. In 1987, the paramedics from Squad 71 in Malibu were added to the call matrix and began covering the Channel Island responses. This allowed the USCG to save fuel by flying “heavy” out of LAX and picking up necessary manpower farther north. In the early 1990’s, Squad 2 in Palos Verdes was added to be used on all cliff and over-the-side calls on the Palos Verdes Peninsula (this later transferred to Squad 106 in Rancho Palos Verdes). This response configuration would remain in place until 1996, when the USCG decided to streamline operations and go again solely with Engine 18 paramedics ( In July, 1991, Squad 18 was moved to Fire Station 21 and replaced by the creation of Paramedic Engine 18).
Since then, the program has expanded its response area greatly, now encompassing an area that stretches from Newport Beach south to Morro Bay on the north and up to 200 miles offshore. Annual training is conducted to keep Battalion 20 personnel certified on helo familiarization and safety, “HEED’s” (Helicopter Emergency Egress Device) certification, and open water survival techniques. Current plans include expanding the service to include hoisting and lowering onto ships, which had been discontinued for a number of years.