Remembering Jim Page: FireRescue board members share their thoughts

This week marks the fifth anniversary of the death of Jim Page, FireRescue magazine's founder and the father of EMS in the fire service. Below, several FireRescue board members share their memories of Jim.

“I only knew Jim Page a few years. But because of reading his many columns and editorials, I felt like I know him my whole life. I first met Jim back in 2002 at FDIC. I had just started working for Fire Rescue Magazine as it's Apparatus Technical Editor. Jim paid me a compliment by saying that he enjoyed reading my monthly columns. I thanked him and told him that I equally enjoyed his writing over the past 20 years. I thought to myself, Wow, here I am a nobody in the fire service and Jim being the leader who so many people looked up to had just made me feel like a million dollars.

“Jim had that effect on just about everybody that he came in contact with. He was a great person not only for his knowledge in the fire and EMS world but as a human being concerned about others and their feelings and concerns.”

—Bob Vaccaro
FireRescue Technical Editor, Apparatus

“I was a volunteer in the Eggertsville Hose Company (I’m now a life member) when James O. Page wrote an article about us (pictured here in a recent reprint).

In it, he notes:
Surely the Eggerstville Hose Company must have a long tradition of service by volunteers. But I doubt that much of the service could have more relevance than its performance on a rainy street in the middle of a recent night. Few of the volunteers looked like Gage or DeSoto. There were no defibrillator, telemetry or drug kits in evidence. Just high-quality basic life support.

Beneath the surface gloss of medical heroics, there will always be a need for the less visible drama of basic life support. Those EMTs who accept that role and do it well have no reason to feel left behind.

I met Jim soon after when he came and spoke at my fire department’s annual inspection and dinner. Following his death, I stopped by the FireRescue booth during Firehouse World in San Diego to give my condolences. Shortly after that, I began writing for FireRescue.”

—Peter Kertzie
Battalion Chief
Buffalo Fire Department
FireRescue Technical Editor, Truck Company Operations

“When I was a really young firefighter, which was a few years ago (early ‘70s), I took time to write to several fire service big shots whose articles I read. I generally wrote or typed my letters asking for advice and questions related to firefighting/rescue etc.

Jim Page was one of those big shots. That was back when he was an advisor for the TV show EMERGENCY! And we became friends. I have many Jim Page stories, but I’ll only share two.

A newspaper did a profile article about me, it was a human interest story and in it I was quoted as saying, ‘I will always love firefighting and will always strive to be the best chief officer I possibly can be ... but if you are in this business, unless you are simply stupid, you better realize quickly that firefighters ALSO providing EMS makes much more of a difference to those who dial 911, in just the shear numbers of runs, than responding to the occasional fire.’

My point then was—and my work over the years backs it up—that firefighting is critically important and is my top priority. However, at that stage in my career, I also had grown tired of firefighters whining about going on EMS runs. My attitude is and has always been, if someone needs help, who better than us to arrive?

A mutual friend of ours, Chief Jack McElfish, sent that article to Jim and he was so excited to read it; he wrote me immediately. After all, Jim was one of the pioneers in helping us ‘get it’ that EMS was important as well. Jim spent many years in some tough areas going to fires. The tough areas also need firefighters providing EMS. So do the not-so-tough areas. What Jim didn't realize is that his work, writing and related stuff contributed to me having that attitude, one that I have had since 1973.

The second story took place in the 80s. I was a chief and worked for a fire rescue commission. One of the commissioners was convinced I didn't support volunteer EMS. Nothing could have been further from the truth. My issue was I had a problem with any volunteer agency, EMS or fire, who couldn't get a crew on the road quickly when a run came in. We had many of those back then in the county I worked. Many areas still do. Nothing personal against volunteer EMS, I just thought it would be appropriate that if they had stations with ambulances in them, when the public dialed 911, someone might actually respond to the call. What did I know?

So during this tough time when the volunteers (and especially this commissioner) were convinced I wanted to replace them with career members, because I ‘didn't like EMS,’ I was walking with this one particular commissioner at the IAFC conference in Washington D.C. As we were walking, a voice yelled out, ‘Hey Chief!’ (Which is kinda dumb to yell at an IAFC conference). The person yelled again. I turned around and he yelled ‘Hey Billy!’

It was Jim Page. My commissioner, walking with me, was a huge EMS guy and WORSHIPPED Jim, but never had met him. Needless to say, he was stunned. Here walked Jim Page toward ME—supposedly ‘Chief Anti-EMS’—with his wonderful smile and warm hug, genuinely glad to see me. We spoke about some EMS stuff, some fire stuff, some family stuff and I introduced him to the commissioner. Jim told the commissioner how much he appreciated the insight that I had provided him related to the EMS and fire world.

It was a priceless moment and classic Jim Page. Wow, do I miss him.”

—Billy Goldfeder
Deputy Chief
Loveland-Symmes (Ohio) Fire Department
FireRescue Contributing Editor

“I did not know Jim well, but when I was working on a project for an EMS cooperative in Portland, Ore., some EMS professionals who came highly recommended provided us with invaluable insight. They knew Jim well, and when I finally did meet him it was a warm greeting, as if we'd known each other for years. His contributions to the field were incredible, but I knew him only briefly as a warm and real human being, something that greatly impressed me. For a fire service and EMS icon, Jim provided an example of quiet competence, humility and professionalism that serves as an example to us all.”
—Jim Crawford
District Chief/Fire Marshal
Vancouver (Wash.) Fire Department
FireRescue Technical Editor, Fire Prevention

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