| Engine 51.. the 2nd, but most beloved pumper from Emergency.
How she began..
It was the third episode of Season Three, The Old Engine.
Johnny Gage is having a frustrating day so far and things don't
improve his mood one iota when he finds that the station's vehicle
bay is completely devoid of fire engine apparatus side of the equation.
|He finds the rest of the gang out in the yard, admiring a huge
behemoth of a pumper, the Ward LaFrance. His incredulous
confusion slowly turns into grudging admiration as the sight
of the new Engine 51 fills his eyes and his little boy's soul.
|Mike Stoker is smiling especially big in this episode.|
|And us hosts eventually found out why...
Let's dally into a little off-the-set adventure that only
the most dedicated Emergency fan has ever heard
before. Take yourself back, thirty five years into the past.
|The policeman looked at the side of our brand new Ward LaFrance
pumper. "ENGINE 51 LOS ANGELES COUNTY FIRE DEPARTMENT."
She smiled. "Hey! You guys are really lost!" And she drove away,
shaking her head in amusement.
Why did we do it and how did we do it? Universal Studios was on
its springhiatus when they almost totally shutdown production of
any series -- it's vacation for them. As the article says, Ward LaFrance
was extremely upset that the engine featured was a Crown -- which
at one time, was about 75% of the fleet here.
Bob Cinader got the idea for a cross-country sell job for the paramedic
program, and of course, for the new TV show Emergency! NBC said
GO and Bob asked me to arrange a trip. Fire Chief Richard Houts was
a bit skeptical, but said (as he always did when he wanted something to
move ahead) 'Make it work.' He anointed me to work with NBC but
cautioned that there could be NO expense to the department.
Bob put me in touch with someone in NBC New York and I was given a
list of so-called NBC cities where Emergency! was very important to
them. I got out a road map and started plotting (during the evenings at
home on my living room floor). During conversations with NBC, I said
we should have a full crew of four, but the only 'star' available of course
(because of the hiatus at the studio) was Mike Stoker, now working back
at his boring regular job as a fire apparatus engineer.
Cinader told me to select the crew (as did the chief). Naturally, Stoker
was one. I picked Michael Stearns, one of the six original P/Ms who was
a good friend. But he had just been promoted to captain. Cinader
(and my chief) didn't care. That was three (with me). I suggested and
Cinader, the chief and both Mikes agreed; it had to be Ed McFall, a
graduate of the second or third class of P/Ms. Ed had personality plus
(like Bill Cosby) and was a damn good P/M to boot. Besides (this may
seem racist), Ed was black and we were trying to promote the image
of equality out here in our department. I drove down to FS 9 and met
with Ed. He thought for all of 2 seconds, called his wife, and he was
a part of our team.
I made and remade the map and NBC would make additions and
deletions. Finally, they agreed to our route, and I wrote letters from
Chief Houts to EVERY f.d. along the route, explaining that (1) we
were due in their city to put on a demo for the local NBC TV station
or (2) we were going across the country to promote the
FD/paramedic program and needed a place to stay, keep the
engine, and work with them whatever they wanted (or didn't want to
do). Almost all the chiefs responded immediately, with a positive
answer. The four of us decided that we would always be in uniform
when on E51 or in public. The studio loaned us four wardrobe chests
(large cardboard containers like steamer trunks) to hold our clothes
for nearly a month, and flew them back to NYC ahead of our arrival.
Many of the fire chiefs told Chief Houts that they could house our
apparatus and us or they could house just the apparatus, or house
|I responded to each one and made the itinerary. This all
took place in less than 3 weeks. The big day arrived; we had shipped
all of our worldly goods via TWA to New York; Stoker left on a Friday
night, a day before us, to go from NYC to Elmira NY to pick up E51
and bring it to NYC. The three of us arrived in NYC at 7 p.m. Saturday
night and were met by a limo with an NBC public relations guy, and
Stoker! We went out for dinner, had a few drinks, laughed, and
wondered what the hell we were doing? We had no credit cards to
pay for stuff, but NBC had given each of us $50 per day cash for
30 days ahead. We didn't even know how we were going to pay for
Sunday morning. Our engine was stored for the night at a NYC hospital.
It was near our hotel so we picked it up (we were wearing grungy civilian
clothes because we were going to spend Sunday cleaning the
apparatus). Stoker drove, as previously arranged by me, to NYC's
Super Pumper station in the Bronx. We arrived at about 9 a.m., and NO
ONE even made an attempt to greet us. Finally, the lieutenant in charge
of their super pumper came out, opened the apparatus doors and we backed
in amidst a whole bunch of NYC fire engines. Not one ff came out to see
what the h*ll we were doing -- all the way from L.A.
CROSS COUNTRY TRIP
This was the start of a cross-country trip to promote paramedics and the
NBC TV series "Emergency."
|Many people have asked us what compelled four fairly sane Los Angeles
County fire fighters to undertake such a trip (Mike Stoker, who drives the
Ward on Emergency, two fire fighter paramedics, Ed McFall and Captain
Mike Stearns, and myself). The answer sounds corny, but it's true. We all
believe in the paramedic program of emergency medical care, and we all
thought that the tour would be an effective way of telling people across the
country about paramedics. Also we thought it would be fun--which it was.
The story started back in February when the producers of Emergency,
a TV series about the LA County Fire Department paramedic program,
decided to reshoot all their fire apparatus stock footage at a cost of about
$50,000. The reason for this decision was the delivery of 46 Ward LaFrance
Ambassador pumpers to LA County earlier in the year. This delivery made
the Ward rig the most frequently seen fire apparatus in the country.
Therefore, the producers felt that, for authenticity's sake, the stock
footage fire engine, should be a Ward.
Ward LaFrance, in Elmira Heights, N.Y., agreed to provide a pumper
and the cross-country delivery suggested a coast-to-coast promotional
tour. We traveled over 4000 miles to cities with NBC TV stations.
FIFTH AVENUE DEMONSTRATION
On our first day on the job in New York City, NBC told us we were
going to put on a paramedic demonstration with New York Hospital's
paramedic team in front of anybody who walks along the street in front
of Rockefeller Center. By the time we began our demonstration, a
fairly large crowd had gathered, including some photographers and
A paramedic trainee simulated cardiac arrest and, talking to a doctor
at New York Hospital on our biophone (a two-way transmitter), we
bought him 'back to life' by following the treatment the doctor prescribed.
We could tell that the spectators were impressed.
What impressed us most, however, were the many people who walked
by and, although they saw the fire engine, the ambulance, and four men
working on a prostrate body, they didn't even stop to see what was
wrong. That shook us up a little.
|While in Pittsburgh, we did a BIG SHOW at a horse race track
outside of town. We arrived in E51 about sundown, after the 3rd race
I think. We were led down onto the track and after the next race was
over, we responded ON the track (red lights and siren) around the entire
track and stopped in front of the grandstands (which were packed with
people). We had brought with us a local and very popular noon-time
radio personality. We got off the rig, and they had a small stage set up.
He introduced us to thousands of people and then did a short interview
with each of us (we were now used to this). We explained our mission
and of course, plugged Emergency! The crowd seemed very interested
and gave us a thundering round of applause. We left and were escorted
to the track owner's box where we were fed a great dinner. Because
we were bushed and thirsty, we all took off our badges and stuffed them
into our pockets so we could enjoy a cool beer (or two). Stoker didn't
drink (designated driver!!). We had a blast, the owner joined us, and
Ed made about $100 on the ponies. The owner said that every Saturday
they had some kind of entertainment, often paratroopers, fireworks,
etc., but that WE had drawn the biggest applause so far in the season.
We took this with a grain of salt, and another beer..
For the Complete Article Source.. (Only excerpts featured above)
|Here is a picture of Engine 51 (the Ward LaFrance) taken just after she arrived in
L.A. and prior to her debut on the show. Notice there is no "51" fleet number plate
on the front left of the vehicle (below where Stoker sits), nor is there on the left side
where Marco sits). These were added later prior to her being shown for the first time
on the show).
(Photo courtesy of Paul Keenleyside)
|Click animation to go to Page Two|
|Somewhere about this time, we were on one of our rare 8-hour drive
days. Just get from one place to another with no scheduled appearances.
We were on one of the interstate highways and it was warm and we
were all half asleep. Stoker swung off the freeway and drove slowly
thru this very little country town. We became instantly awake and alert
and waved at a lot of very confused and puzzled residents wondering
what the hell an L.A. Co.F.D. fire truck was doing there.
Back on the freeway and we saw a car on the other side of the roadway
with smoke/stream pouring from it. A couple of (we called them hippies
then) were staring into the engine compartment. Mike pulled to a stop 8
lanes across from the car and Ed and I ran across to see what was going
on. Fortunately, it was overheated, because we had no way in the world
to put out a fire. We had no hose, no water, not even a fire extinguisher!
As we walked up, the two young guys looked at us, turned and saw the
engine and said: "What the h*ll are you doing here and where did you
come from?" We told them we had been sent to a car fire even though it
'was a bit out of our district' hey appreciated our concern, but said
they had a jug of water for the radiator in their car trunk. We continued
Not more than 30 minutes later, we came across an empty car parked
on the shoulder and soon after saw a young guy walking up the freeway.
A long way from any town. We stopped and asked if he wanted a ride.
He couldn't believe it. He got in, very excited and puzzled, and we took
him 3 or 4 miles to the next off-ramp and into a gas station. He probably
still is trying to convince his friends that an L.A. Co. engine -- AND
Engine 51 -- picked him up out in the middle of the 'sticks'
We were headed for Cincinatti on Easter Sunday. Beautiful day and
we got an early start for an 8-hour drive. We needed fuel and there were
no gas stations open along the interstate. We finally saw an open one
and pulled into it. NO DIESEL. But the guy directed us to go down a
narrow side road about a mile to a little town (I think we were in Ohio
at that point). So we went. Small town? YES. A smal cafe , a post office,
a little store (closed) and a two-pump gas station (no office or building)
with a very old man with coveralls sitting in a chair in front of the pumps.
We pulled up and he just stared. We climbed off and he slowly walked
over and just looked at E51. Finally, he said: "My God. I wouldn't
believe it. E51 is SO BIG. How much did it cost?"We told him we
didn't know and he said he was on the local volunteer FD and they
never could afford anything like this. We asked him if he wanted a ride.
He really did, but couldn't leave the station. While we were pumping in
our fuel, a teenaged girl from the cafe came over. She saw Mike and
got flustered and finally mumbled that the woman who owned the cafe
would like for us to join them for ice cream. We did. There were about
3 or 4 other people in the cafe and they just stared at us as we went in.
It was chilly and we were in our turnouts. We had some great ice cream
and the young girl followed us back to the engine.
As we started to pull away, she looked up at Mike and said: "This is
the happiest day of my life. Thank you for stopping here." We all d*mn
|We entered another Indianapolis station and the floor watch guy
ushered us out onto a large loading dock at the rear of the station.
About 10 or 11 ff were sitting there, most with bottles of beer. Heck, we
were off duty and in civvies so we joined them. After a while, they got an alarm.
We were scrambling to get our turnout coats and helmets when we
were told to climb aboard any rig. I was in the cab of the truck
company, and we were racing down a dark, narrow street in an
industrial part of town. As we approached an intersection, the radio
blurted out: "Truck 1. You are approaching First and Main (or some
streets)!"The lieutenant acknowledged then told me that Truck 1
had slammed into a car at THAT corner a couple months back. Very
reassuring. The dispatcher cancelled us but we kept going. We got
to the fire which had been knocked down, but the HQ guys wanted us
to walk around with our L.A. County F.D. turnouts and helmets on to
confuse the heck out of the other fire crews that were on scene. It
worked. We had fun, too.
As we arrived at the fire station on South Ogden Street in Denver
at night, it began to snow. That was a treat for us Californians,
but the local guys just saw it as a nuisance.
We pulled up to the front of the Denver fire station (a beautiful,
brand new station just out of the downtown area) during evening
rush hour traffic. The guys were expecting us and some ran across
traffic all pointing and one dragging a C02 fire extinguisher! I was
"captain"and they ran to the engine and pointed to where I was
sitting, above the right front wheel. Smoke was coming out of a
small blower built into the body. This blower provides a little cooling
for some of the hydraulic system. It apparently had frozen up and
the poor little motor was trying to turn anyway and was just burning
up. One blast of C02 took care of that.
|We pulled in and in about 10 minutes, a f.d. mechanic showed up,
WITH a new unit for us. They also had some Ward LaFrance rigs
and had some spare parts. It soon started to snow and we stood
with our noses pressed to the windows as the guys prepared a
great dinner. They thought we were surely nuts, but we Southern
Californians weren't used to that pretty white fluffy stuff. (We soon
learned o live with it though!)
This station was unique to us. There was no common dorm. A
series of two-person rooms were on the perimeter of the station,
and the truck, engine and rescue crews were on separate alarm
systems. If just the engine was to roll, the other guys could sleep
right through it in their own rooms. They had reserved two adjacent
rooms for us. Though OUR alarms didn't go off, we heard the entire
station depart about 2 a.m. And it soon got COLD. I jumped out of
bed, and in my underwear and bare feet, went out to see the
station empty AND all doors wide open. It was snowing and windy
and freezing (at least to us). I studied the alarm panel for a second
or two and pushed a couple buttons and the doors closed. We then
wondered how they would get back in, especially if we fell asleep.
But they did.
Finally, and mercifully, we were rescued, by the fd crew across the street.
Their chief had asked if we would drive to the HQ and let all the ff's kids
and families see E51. We really were in no condition, but duty was duty.
We went to the rear of the station and there were about 75 people there.
We JUST HAD TO do a real demo, even though we didn't have
uniforms on. We stood in the hose bed and told of our trip and of
Emergency! and of paramedics and firefighters and anything and
everything else, as I recall. It was terrific (we think) but lots of photos
were taken and we had people crawling all over the engine and
hugging and kissing us (well almost). At about 9 p.m., we remembered
that we had not eaten dinner so took off for a nearby McDonalds --
followed by a caravan of 2 or 3 dozen cars!!! We sat on the rig and
devoured our Big Macs and chatted and talked and signed
autographs, etc etc etc. What a night.
|As we crossed into Los Angeles County at the San Bernardino
County border, I put in a radio call: "L.A. This is Engine 51. Back
in our own district and returning to quarters." Unfortunately, it
was not Sam Lanier's shift, but the duty dispatch captain answered
simply: "10-4, Engine 51. Welcome home." A few minutes we
received a message via radio: "Engine 51. Report to Klinger
Center (this is our headquarters). The chief engineer requests
you advise when you are 5 minutes out."
When we pulled up at HQ, Chief Houts, the entire top staff and
most everyone in HQ was out in front to greet us. It was quite a
welcome!! Chief Houts said he had received phone calls and
letters from chiefs along the way. "Well, most of them thought you
did a pretty good job." he said. Then he patted us all on our backs
and said we must have dazzled the nation because he had never
received such glowing reports. We were pleased -- that he was
The NBC publicity people were flabbergasted and we all
had a great laugh and a great lunch.
Later -- we headed home. At the Los Angeles County border,
I picked up the microphone, and announced: ;
"L.A. Engine 51. Back in our own district and available."
The reply: "10-4 Engine 51. Welcome home." It was the one
and only Sam Lanier on the dispatch board.
What can you say when one of the biggest studios in Los Angeles
pulls out all the stops to welcome you home. That day was something
we'll remember for a long time.
Universal brought about 800 tourists to the main gate, where a
big sign said, "Welcome Engine 51." We roared through the gates,
sirens and lights going full blast, preceded by an escort of two
pumpers and the LA County Chief's car.
Many of the stars from Emergency were there, including Julie
London, who christened the new Engine 51 with a breakaway
bottle of champagne. Chief Richard Houts of the L.A. County
Fire Department was also there to welcome us. It all made us
feel excited and happy.
|He took a picture and when he lowered his camera, it was the
one and only Randolph Mantooth. Johnny Gage, right there in person.
He whispered that he had been harassing Stoker but Mike had not
recognized him. I told Randy to climb in the cab and start messing
around with all kinds of switches, knobs, etc. Which he did.
I motioned to Stoker and told him that some guy is messing
around in the cab and get him out. Good ol' courteous Stoker.
He asked the guy politely several times to stop and Randy just
kept throwing switches. He finally asked him, again quite politely
to get out. Randy kept on. He walked right to the captain's side
and told the guy to get the hell out of he engine. Randy turned,
let out a blood-curdling scream and leaped at Stoker, practically
knocking him down. It was only then that Mike realized who the
heck this was. Stearns and McFall had run up to see what was
occurring. We all rolled around the ground laughing.
The NBC p.r. gal lady showed up, told us to secure the engine,
and she was taking us in the mall for lunch. She did not
recognize Randy either. Randy and his brother and his brother's
girl friend all had been camping and hiking for about 3 weeks.
When they were getting dressed in the morning, they heard a
radio announcement about E51 being at the mall -- and just
had to come. I introduced the p.r. lady to Randy and she just
about fainted she was so excited, and of course, invited Randy
and his friends for lunch. We started for the mall door and
Randy told me he couldn't go in. "Why?"I naturally inquired.
"I just got thrown out of there." he said, because he didn't have
a shirt on. I told him to go to the car and get his shirt and I
waited for him. He was between Stoker and me when we went
in, past two security guards, the ones that had escorted him out
just 20 minutes ago. They stared at us, but didn't come over.
Randy wanted us to take him to them so he could'straighten
them out' but we all thought better of that idea. Lunch was fun.
I did a live radio show on a station with a studio in the mall. And
then the p.r. gal drove me to a TV station where I was to be
interviewed on a live afternoon program. I met the host at the
studio and we talked briefly what I was to say. Not much, it turned
out. But I had no equipment to show, no nothing. It was about
15 minutes until air time and there was a phone on the wall so I
called the Clark Co. Fire Dispatcher. Their rescue squad had
come to our shopping mall 'display,' and it was still there when I
left for the TV studio. The dispatcher said, yes, indeed, their squad
was there. I told her to have E51 RESPOND to the studio. In
several minutes (with about 5 to go for show time) I could hear
E51 coming, Code R, led by the squad. I had told the prop man
and he had put two more chairs on the set and opened the back
doors. The guys pulled up and I directed them to quickly unload the
gear and put it on the set and to take the seats. I stood idly by as
the host returned, not knowing what was going on. I quickly introduced
him to the crew, and he was delighted to have some props to play
with. They went ON THE AIR -- and I watched from the sidelines.
As usual, the guys did a terrific job. Of course, they had no clue
as to what I was doing -- or not doing -- but that's the way ffs work.
"Just Do It." They did have a few things to say to me after the show
was done, but they were out of time: no more days to get back at
|In real life, these were the beginning of the complete dieselization of the LACoFD fleet in
1972. Chief Houts suggested to Bob Cinader that since the County was getting all these
new Ward LaFrances, that the show should reflect that fact. Universal Studios went along
with that suggestion, contacted Dick Gergel, president of Ward LaFrance, and arranged
for a LACoFD look-a-like to be used in the show. This unit was put on a driving tour across
the U.S prior to arrival at Universal.
The 2nd Engine 51 is a 1000gpm triple combination P-80 Ambassador
model powered by a Cummins NH855 250hp naturally aspirated diesel engine
driving through an Allison HT-70 power shift transmission. The LACoFD rigs were
1250 gpm triples powered by Cummins NHCT295 turbocharged Diesels driving
through Allison HT-70 5 speed manual transmissions. They had 500-gallon booster
tanks, as did Engine 51. In their outward appearance both E-51 and the LACoFD
rigs were identical. All the County Ward rigs plus E-51 had Federal Q2B sirens
and Grover Stutter-tone air horns.
There are many views of Engine 51 both from inside and out, and from many
angles around the cab and in several episodes. The fan gets to ride along as Mike
Stoker powers up the engine, and we get to see him as Captain Stanley would
sitting in the Captain's seat as the engine approaches the incidents.
Additional Ward LaFrance units can be seen in later episodes, most notably
Engine 73, and 114. These units are almost identical to Engine 51 and were actual
LA County Fire Department units.
|Engine 51's life was not over after her six years filming during Emergency's
television run. She had bigger and better things, just ahead. And so, Engine 51
began twenty one years of her new life, in active fire duty.
| THE NATION VIEWED FROM THE PUMPER
Los Angeles County F.D. crew promotes paramedic program and finds
adventure in 4000-mile tour from New York to West Coast studio
BY DICK FRIEND-- Community Relations Director Los Angeles County Fire Department
A police car pulled up alongside us at 5th Avenue and 59th Street in New York.
Mike Stoker, our driver, leaned out the window and asked, "Which way to the Freeway?"
"You mean the Expressway?" one of the policemen asked.
"No. The San Diego Freeway."
|Before we left Denver, we were cleared to go through the Loveland
Tunnel. We were pretty happy about that because otherwise we would
have had to go over the 11,000-foot grade of Lowland Pass in the
snow -- with no chains. What no one told us was that the road on the
far side of the tunnel hadn't been cleared, and we skidded and slid
about 7 miles when we got out the other side.
It was pretty scary -- none of us is really experienced in driving on
snowy, icy roads, so we took it slow and easy. It was also very cold,
but luckily we all had our long underwear on.
AN UNEXPECTED VISITOR - LAS VEGAS
It was our last stop from home -- fabled Las Vegas, NV. The local
radio station was inviting listeners to come on out and see the
crew on famous Emergency!s Engine 51 which was to be outside
a brand new shopping mall near The Strip on Monday morning.
Monday was our last show biz day and we started off outside
a very large, new enclosed shopping mall. It was busy. Stoker
and I stationed ourselves at the front of E51 and Stearns and
McFall at the tailboard displaying all our paramedic gear. Just
before noon, a young guy with a scraggly beard, rather long hair
and shorts came up and was clicking away with his camera.
Quite a few visitors, but one kept taking MY picture.
He was a young guy with a fuzzy beard, no shirt, cut off blue jeans
and a weird hat. He had been over on Stoker's side. He came to
me and pointed the camera at my face -- from all of a foot away!
Finally, he got to within about 2 feet of me, aimed his camera at my
face and said: "Smile, Dick."