South San Francisco Fire Department’s paramedic program was first proposed in March of 1973. The first and still the only fire department to provide full paramedic transport, South San Francisco has been providing paramedic service to its residents since 1975.
Fourteen 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 Stanford. Internships were done in the Los Angeles area since LA County had one of the few established paramedic programs in the country. Kaiser served as the first base hospital. Paramedic programs were required to be affiliated with a base hospital because at that time medics had to radio an emergency room physician before administering any Advanced Life Support.
The first vehicle was a large yellow Ford 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 Kaiser staff. The van had two red lights on top and “South San Francisco 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. South San Francisco Fire has two paramedics on the two full time ambulances and at least one on each engine company. Starting in January of 1999, all fire departments in San Mateo County began offering paramedic services via the ALS engine concept.