02/03/14 969 W, 13 I - + 7 - 8 UPDATE #2: History of Durham Rescue and EMS Services

February 3
Updated with some more images of Durham Fire Department rescue units. Sources are the Durham Fire Department History Facebook page (first two), Lee Wilson, and Mike Legeros. Click to enlarge:

Plus one montage of the trucks, adding a fifth unit that's pictured earlier in this posting. Left to right, top to bottom: 1957 GMC Civil Defense rescue, late 1960s GMC van, early 1970s GMC/_____, mid-1980s (?) Ford/Frontline, early 1990s International/Frontline (remount). Click to enlarge:


January 21
Updated with a pair of Parkwood FD and one more Durham FD image, from Carl David Ellott's The Illustrated History of Rescue and Emergency Services.

January 19
With recent news that Parkwood Fire Department will be ending EMS services on July 1, and Durham County EMS becoming the county's lone provider, here are some historical notes on ambulance, rescue, and EMS services in Durham. These are absolutely incomplete, just a one-off compilation of quick research.


Early History - Ambulance services include private providers (including Beacon Ambulance Service, based in Raleigh), funeral homes (such as Amey's Funeral Home and Florist, Burthey Funeral Service, Clements Funeral Service, etc.), and even hospitals. Watts Hospital had at least one ambulance as shown in this image circa 1940. Same is courtesy the North Carolina Collection at Durham County Library. See more information:

1960 - Durham FD receives a 1957 GMC rescue truck provided by Durham County Civil Defense. It's housed at Station 2, and is manned by firefighters who were trained by the Red Cross in first aid.

1964 - Durham FD opens a new Station 1. The rescue truck is moved to Station 1. There were no assigned paid positions, so one firefighter from each of the engines was assigned to ride Rescue 1 if it were needed.

1964, after - Rescue 1 replaced with late 1960s GMC van.

1969 - North Carolina EMS System starts. The first EMT class in Durham was taught to Durham FD Rescue personnel at Durham Tech. The eighty-one hour EMT course created the Fire Driver/Rescue Specialist position on Rescue 1. All emergencies in Durham and Durham County were answered by Rescue 1. This numbered twenty to thirty calls per day. 

Also that year, Parkwood FD members begin first-aid training, after a member's son is run over by a garbage truck.

1972, March - Parkwood FD places into service a donated 1964 Ford Econline van as an ambulance/rescue vehicle. Was donated by GTE, which also painted the former telephone vehicle white for the fire department. Firefighters built cabinets and equipped the van. Four years later (?) it was retired and donated to the Atlantic Beach Fire Department. Click to enlarge:

1974, January - Parkwood FD purchases a 1967 Cadillac Ambulance from Newton Square, PA, to replace the van. The Cadillac served until 1978, when it was replaced by a 1978 Ford van ambulance (Rescue 10/Medic 2).

 1974, fall - Parkwood FD has eight firemen complete state EMT course.

1975 - Durham FD becomes a Public Safety Department. Fire stations typically have one person to drive the apparatus. Rescue 11 is one exception an had a full crew. The unit had been renamed from Rescue 1, with the introduction of county EMS units. Here's one of their units from the 1970s or 1980s:

1975 - Durham County EMS formed. In April 1975, county commissioners granted management privileges to newly formed Durham County Hospital Corporation. Initial fleet consisted of four BLS units and crews, and operated from the old Lincoln Community Health Center and old d old Watts Hospital. Average call volume was 750-900 per month. Units are named Rescue 1, Rescue 2, etc. They have two-person crews.

1976 - By end of year, DCEMS began ALS training program at EMT-I level.

1976 - Parkwood FD received a new modular ambulance (Rescue 9), ordered through the Governor's Highway Safety Program with matching funds. Was placed in service in October 1976. The truck was chosen for stand for President Ford, during his visit to the North Carolina State Fair that month.

1975-76 - Rescue 11 personnel trained to EMT-I level.

1978 - By end of year, DCEMS had implemented county's first paramedic level response system. One unit operated as EMT-P, and four as EMT-I.

1980s, mid - Durham County EMS system expanded to include the county volunteer fire departments, Durham FD (Rescue 11 only?). In the county, the FDs provided an ambulance station, and driver, and DCEMS provided a medic and ALS equipment. Those departments included Betheda, Parkwood, and Redwood.

1983 - Lebanon FD begins First Responder program.

1984 - Bethesda FD begins operating as an ambulance provider. Durham County provides a 1978 Ford ambulance, for the department to operate. They started planning for the program in September 1983. The Durham County General Hospital Ambulance Division began training Bethesda firefighters to be EMTS. They began responding to rescue calls in their fire district in March 1984. They were franchised as an ambulance provider in November 1984.

1985 - Bahama FD begins First Responder program.

1985 - Durham FD ceases Public Safety Department program.

1989-90 - Durham FD removes Rescue 11 from service. Here's a mid-1980s (?) unit. Click to enlarge:


1991 - Lebanon FD added full-service EMS operations.

1992 - Durham FD starts First Responder program.

1994 - Duke University Rescue Squad placed in service in spring, providing stand-by coverage at basketball games. By 1995, expands to responding to emergency calls.

2000s - Durham FD receives last walk-in style rescue unit.

2003 - Duke University Rescue Squad renamed Duke University EMS.

2012 - Bahama FD (Dec. 31), Bethesda FD (Jun. 31), and Redwood FD (Jun. 31) cease EMS service.

2013 - Parkwood Fire Department ceases EMS service.


Rescue 11 was still in service in the early to mid 1990’s. The Frontline rescue body was remounted by Excellance Ambulances in the 1991-1992 time frame on to the 4 door International chassis shown above. (Shown in the 5 picture montage with mid-body rail and wheel well treadplate) Behind the 4 door R-11 is Mobile Air 1. Sometime later in the 90’s it was renamed to Squad 1.
D. Cates - 02/04/14 - 11:23

The Black and White picture where you mention Rescue 11 being taken out of service is Captain David Jacobs, now EMS Coordinator DFD, and I’m a Retired LT. Durham PD.
Robert McLaughlin, Banzai (Email) - 02/22/16 - 21:08

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