On January 8th, 1973 the City of Orange took a major step that would affect the lives of all the citizens within our community for many years to come. This step was the commitment to become one of the first cities in Orange County to provide paramedic service to its residents, thus increasing the chance of saving many more lives.
The endeavor taken to see this implementation appeared to be a major gamble, as the idea of Para medicine was a relatively new concept to the fire service. Prior to 1973, the fire department provided only advanced first aid that was taught by the Red Cross. This level of training was very antiquated compared to paramedic standards, but was the only training available back in those days.
The Orange Fire Department will be celebrating its 31-year anniversary of providing paramedic service to the citizens of Orange. During these past 30 years, many lives have been saved due to the foresight of individuals who saw the benefit this would have on our community.
Seven fire fighters applied to the original paramedic program, which required each of them to receive Emergency Medical Technician (EMT) training before being accepted into the paramedic program at UCI. Internships were done in the LA County area since there was no established paramedic programs in the county. UCI served as the first base hospital. Paramedic programs were required to be affiliated with a base hospital because at that time medics had to get approval from an emergency room physician before administering any Advanced Life Support case other than CPR.
The first vehicle was a large red Chevy van. The seats were taken out and cabinets were built to store equipment and a bench seat was added for storage and ride-a-longs by County Health and UCI staff. The van had two red lights on top and “City of Orange Fire Department Paramedic” and City seal on the door. This vehicle carried very basic equipment consisting of a large orange box containing the mobile radio and the EKG monitor, as well as a drug case resembling a large toolbox.
Today’s paramedic program is vastly different. City of Orange Fire has a total of 39 trained paramedics; 11-13 paramedics are on staff each day, ensuring that the highest quality of service is provided to the citizen and visitor to the City of Orange. We currently have one paramedic on each of the three full time rescues and on each of the eight engine companies, creating an Advanced Life Support (ALS) delivery system. Starting in October of 1995, the fire department began offering emergency transportation services via Paramedic Assessment Unit (PAU) rescue concept. Staffed with dual role Firefighter / Paramedics, this enhanced the fire department service levels and reduced response times while providing a needed funding source to the city otherwise lost to private, out-of-area companies.
With this little bit of history in mind, I would like to inform you of two individuals who were instrumental in the advanced level of service we know today:
Retired City Manager Dave Rudat was a graduate of Orange County Paramedic Class 1 and became one of the first seven paramedics within the Orange Fire Department. Retired City Manager Rudat went on to serve many years as a paramedic and helped pave the way for future paramedics that would follow in the years to come.
Retired Captain Tom Thies also was a graduate of Class 1 and served continuously as an active paramedic within the department. He was a major contributor to the paramedic program and is responsible for much of the way we provide service today.