Emergency! Photo Tour
As a 10-year-old kid, watching each new episode of Emergency! on Saturday night was a matter of life or death. What made Emergency! so compelling is that it showed real-world type of activities of the firefighters and medical staff, using real fire equipment and a real hospital. The show came along at the very start of the Paramedic program in Los Angeles and helped to revolutionize emergency medical care across the country. For example, CPR, which has saved countless people, was popularized by the show. In this photo tour, we visit some of the filming locations and equipment used on the show some 40 years after its premier on national TV.
The fire station featured in Emergency! is Station 51 of the Los Angeles County Fire Department. The number 51 was selected because LACoFD did not have a Station 51 at that time. The actual station that was used is Station 127 located at 2049 East 223rd Street in Carson, California, which is near Long Beach. LACoFD has several stations that use this same floor plan, but Station 127 was ideal for filming since it faced south.
Station 127 looks very much like it did in the 1970s. The parking area in the foreground was added in the 1990s, and the gate leading to the back parking lot was added in the 2000s. The station now honors Robert Cinader, the producer of both Emergency! and Adam-12. The lettering was modified around 2005 to conform to a new standard developed by the LACoFD. The lettering is higher on the wall in the show.
Squad 51 is owned and displayed by the Los Angeles County Fire Museum, located at 9834 Flora Vista Street in Bellflower, California. The museum is open one weekend per month and does not charge admission. Note that this is the County of Los Angeles, not the City of Los Angeles, which explains why the station and museum are not located within the city limits of Los Angeles. The squad was donated to LACoFD after the show ended, who occasionally used the squad when they were short of equipment. The squad was transferred to the museum when it was retired.
The squad is a 1974 Dodge dually truck with a utility box on the back. It was built by the studio using blueprints supplied by the LACoFD. It was built exactly to the blueprints, including a white light on top of the lightbar that was in the drawings, but was never installed on any of the LACoFD vehicles. There were two other squads used in the series, but history has lost track of what happened to them.
The fire engine used in the first two seasons was Engine 60, a 1965 model Crown Firecoach. It was an actual LACoFD fire truck stationed at Universal Studios. It was one of the last open cab trucks in use by the LACoFD. It is now retired and displayed at the LA County Fire Museum. The Crown had a twin, Engine 127, which was housed at Station 127, and was used for some location shots. That engine was rebuilt with a closed cab. It was heavily damaged in an accident and scrapped.
Station 51 received a new engine early in its third season. Ward La France had done a large deal with the LACoFD, and they decided to donate a fire truck to Universal Studios for the show. The Ward served Station 51 for the rest of the TV series and appeared in one of the Emergency! movies after the series ended. The engine then went to Yosemite National Park, where it was Engine 7. The museum traded a restored 1937 Seagrave fire truck to obtain title to the Ward. While the truck is in good shape, the museum hopes to restore it back to its 1970s appearance.
This is the view across the street from Station 127. This is the site of the Atlantic Richfield refinery that served as a backdrop for many of the exciting rescues in the show. The refinery was purchased by BP and was retired from service. The site is now cleaned up and is for sale. Station 127 is in an area that has several large chemical companies including two active refineries. This has been an issue for the station over the years, such as when a chlorine leak damaged the station, trucks, and could have been fatal if the firefighters had not been out in front of the building and saw the cloud moving towards the station.
The hospital featured in the series is named Rampart General Hospital, sometimes referred to as Rampart Emergency Hospital. In real life, it was Harbor General Hospital, located at the corner of Carson Street and Vermont Avenue in Carson, California. The exterior looks much the same as it did during the series, though the lower wing on the north side of the building has been completely rebuilt. A major expansion project was underway when I visited early in 2011.
Today, Rampart is known as Harbor-UCLA Medical Center. It is affiliated with the UCLA College of Medicine. The grounds were developed during WWII as the Los Angeles Port of Embarkation Hospital, where casualties from the war in the Pacific would arrive. Despite this being a county facility, the hospital is located within the city limits of Los Angeles on a thin strip of land that connects the downtown and harbor areas. The name Rampart was suggested by Cinader based on his work on Adam-12, where Rampart was a division within the Los Angeles Police Department. Harbor Medical Center was part of the original Paramedic program, with its first Paramedic class graduating in 1970.
One episode of Emergency! has Station 51 responding to a fire in a lab building at Rampart. The building shown was a low one-story wood building. There are a series of such buildings on the property that date back to the World War II era. These buildings house a variety of labs as well as a number of county agencies.
Authored by John A. Weeks III, Copyright © 1996—2016, all rights reserved.
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