The line of people stretched as far as the eye could see as fans from around the world eagerly gathered for the unveiling of the newly restored Ward LaFrance Engine 51 from the hit television show Emergency!, which highlighted the new paramedic profession in the 1970s. This historic event, held on July 9 at "Station 51" also known as LACoFD's Station 127 in Carson, marks the first time that Engine 51 and Squad 51 were reunited at "the home of the show" in more than 30 years. Excitement rippled through the air as the crowd waited for the tarps to be lifted revealing the famous rigs. People of all ages came from as far away as Germany and Austria for this momentous occasion made possible by the County of Los Angeles Fire Musuem Association (CLAFMA), whose mission is dedicated to celebrating the American Fire Service and our Department's contributions to it.
It was truly a sight to see as fans, first responders, families and more came out to be part of this unprecedented occasion. Fire Chief Daryl Osby, who is our Department's first Fire Chief to have also served as a paramedic, welcomed the crowd. Osby said, "Preserving Engine 51 and Squad 51 as it relates to our Department is truly historic and this show was instrumental in growing paramedic programs worldwide. It is great that Engine 51 and Squad 51 are part of LACoFD's legacy." Stars of the show Randolph Mantooth (a.k.a. Paramedic Johnny Gage) and retired Fire Captain Mike Stoker, who played himself as engineer of Engine 51, were also on hand to witness the unveiling and sign autographs for everyone. Other special guests to celebrate the day included Congresswoman Laura Richardson, Assemblymember Isadore Hall, City of Carson Mayor Jim Dear, Supervisor Mark Riddley-Thomas, former Los Angeles Mayor James Hahn, whose father was a big supporter of the fire service and more. Attendees enjoyed a delicious lunch compliments of Eddie Sell and Firehouse Chefs. Congratulations go to Scott C. Williams from Alberta, Canada, winner of the entertaining "World's Biggest Emergency Fan" contest!
The day was an unbelievable success and Fire Captain Joe Woyjeck, who serves as CLAFMA Vice-President was thrilled with the turnout. He said, "We expected maybe 600 to 1,000 people, but there were more than 2,500 people here today. We are just amazed. As the event chair, I want to thank all of the contributing members whose donations support the museum. I want to thank LACoFD for the support and the great working relationship that they have with the museum." Fire Captain Paul Schneider, who serves as the musuem's President was working up until the last minute to make the deadline, but he had a lot of help. Schneider said, "We only had eight days to reassemble the engine after we got it back from the paint shop. And I would like to especially thank everyone who helped us put it back together in time for the big day." Schneider and Woyjeck also expressed a special thanks to the explorers, the volunteers, and everyone else who helped make "51 in Quarters" a fun-filled day for all.
Jimmy Raftery, a dispatcher for the New York Fire Department, who came out just to attend this event summed it up best. Raferty said, "This is an Emergency! fan's dream come true to see the rigs fully restored. Captains Woyjeck, Schneider, and all the members of the museum deserve eternal gratitude from everyone here today. I am honored to be here." For anyone who missed the event, don't worry! You can still see Engine 51 and Squad 51at CLAMFA. For more information please visit their website www.LACountyFireMuseum.com and the CLAMFA page on Facebook. Photos provided by LACoFD Volunteer Photographers Dennis Stouffer, Chris Conkle and John Conkle.