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Send me a ’55’ – History of the YFD Ambulance Units



Morris Haggerty, Photographer

The Fire Department ambulance made its debut on January 1, 1960, but owes its origin to the Police Department. The service was begun in the 1940’s to answer a need for a public ambulance at no charge. While in the Police Department, the ambulance received its number “55” that is still its name today.


YPD Municipal Ambulance. Photo dated 1946.

The first firemen to run the ambulance were ill trained and had little equipment with which to work. Assignments to  “55” were based on lowest seniority, the youngest firefighter and lieutenant were placed on the unit. First-aid training was available but not required, and most firemen learned “on the job.” Emergency medical training was implemented in the mid 70’s but still was not required.

In the late 70’s, civilians were hired to replace firemen. This marked the first time since the inception of “55” that civilians manned the unit. In 1984, “55” became an Advanced unit with I.V. capabilities.  This gave its crews a life saving tool in cases of trauma, but a higher goal lay just on the horizon. With paramedic service fast becoming the  standard in pre-hospital care, the Fire Department sent two employees,  Silverio Caggiano and Kevin Johnson to Paramedic school in 1986. In 1987, “Medic 55” began to provide paramedic care to the community.

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Robin Birkholtz, Photographer

As time progressed, the “no charge” ambulance got an economic boost with a revised billing plan to reflect its upgraded service. The increased importance of emergency medical services in the Fire Department setting was the catalyst for a series of events that climaxed on August 7th  of 1991. A new city ordinance requiring “Medic 55” be staffed by Firefighters with emergency medical training allowed the “civilian” Paramedics and Advanced Emergency Medical Technicians to be sworn-in as cadet Firefighters. “Medic 55” was once again back in the ranks as a valuable tool in a fast evolving department.

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1969 Cadillac Ambulance. Photo dated Summer 1972. Richard Reardon, Photographer

During the early part of the 90’s the end of the fire department ambulance came. The city began cutting jobs to save money and the firefighters used to staff the ambulance were assigned to other pieces of firefighting apparatus. “Medic 55” made its final run in 1993. There have been a couple of rumors of the reinstating of the Fire Department  ambulance but no official plans have been confirmed.


  • 1954 Ford Ambulance – Medic-55 @ Station 1 Registration Number: FIOV4H56229 – Received from the PD. Was all white, repainted all red.

  • 1954 Dodge Ambulance – Medic-55 @ Station 1 Dodge Ambulance – Possibly 1955

  • 1961 International – Delivered 2/1961 Medic.55 @ Station 1 Travel All ¾ ton ambulance – Registration Number: SB130619 – Paint scheme: all red.

  • 1968 International – Medic-55 @ Station 1 Travel All ¾ ton ambulance Hi-Boy – Raised roof – Paint scheme: red and white.

  • 1969 Cadillac Ambulance – Medic-55 @ Station 1 Was still in service in Summer of 1972

  • 1987 Ford – Medic-55 @ Station 1 McCoy-Miller Type II ambulance – Disposed

The YFD also had the following: 2 Dodge Ambulances, a Chevy Ambulance and then the Fords (Years unknown).

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