James O. Page, 68, a Southern California fire service veteran who was viewed as the most influential proponent of emergency medical services, particularly within fire departments, died Sept. 4 of apparent cardiac arrest while swimming in a pool in Carlsbad, Calif. Results of an autopsy are pending.
Mr. Page was founder of the highly regarded Journal of Emergency Medical Services.
Considered by many to be the father of the modern emergency medical service, or EMS, Mr. Page was a Los Angeles County Fire Department battalion chief when he was assigned to coordinate the countywide implementation of paramedic rescue services in 1971.
That year, producer and actor Jack Webb hired Mr. Page as technical adviser and a writer for the new "Emergency!" television series, which is credited with introducing modern EMS to Americans.
Mr. Page faced a tremendous amount of resistance as an early advocate of EMS in the fire service, said Gary Ludwig, director of EMS and fire education at Sanford-Brown College in St. Louis.
"You had fire chiefs and firefighters who basically had the attitude, 'We don't do EMS; we just fight fires,' " said Ludwig, a former chief paramedic of the St. Louis Fire Department.
Ludwig said that Mr. Page helped turn around thinking about EMS by his pioneering education program and as adviser to "Emergency!" the action-adventure series about L.A. County Fire Department paramedics that "changed the face of EMS on a national level."
Garry Briese, executive director of the International Association of Fire Chiefs, said that when the trade media at the time were not providing the kind of exposure to EMS that Mr. Page felt was necessary, he launched the Journal of Emergency Medical Services, which is considered one of the world's most respected sources of EMS information, in 1979.
In 1973, Mr. Page left the Los Angeles County Fire Department to accept the new position of chief of EMS for North Carolina, where he implemented a statewide program of emergency medical care and rescue services.
Two years later, he became executive director of Lakes Area Emergency Medical Services in Buffalo, and he served as chief administrator of a federally funded project to upgrade and improve emergency services in Upstate New York.
From 1976 to 1983, he served as executive director of the ACT, or Advanced Coronary Treatment, Foundation and developed programs to upgrade emergency medical services nationwide. He also was the technical support services program manager for the United States Fire Administration, for which he managed a national program of consulting and technical assistance for fire and EMS agencies.
He returned to the L.A. fire service in 1984 as a battalion chief in Carlsbad, and two years later was appointed fire chief of Monterey Park, Calif., where he had grown up. After leaving that department in 1989, he returned to the full-time position of chairman and chief executive of Jems Communications.
In addition to the Journal of Emergency Medical Services, the company publishes Wildland Firefighter, Homeland First Response and FireRescue magazines. For the latter, Mr. Page wrote the monthly "Burning Issues" column.
In 2000, Chicago-based Fire Chief magazine, the leading information source for fire chiefs and chief officers across North America, recognized Mr. Page as one of the 20 people who most shaped the American fire service in the 20th century.
While with the L.A. County Fire Department, he received a law degree from Southwestern Law School. A licensed California lawyer since 1971, he was a partner in the law firm of Page, Wolfberg and Wirth at the time of his death.
Survivors include his wife; four children; his mother; a sister; and six grandchildren.