01/15/14 5540 W - + 8 - 1 History of Rescue Squads and EMS in Wake County

For your Hump Day enjoyment, here's the second in a series about EMS and rescue squad histories. The first was this history of Wake County EMS. Here's the larger story, of the funeral homes that provide ambulance service, the early rescue squads, and the more recent EMS agencies. It's a bit all over the place, in format and content. This thing's being cooked. But it works for a midweek blog post. Input welcome.


1935 - Raleigh City Directory lists three ambulance services:


1940 - Raleigh City Directory lists the following ambulance services:

1945 - Raleigh City Directory lists the following ambulance services:

1947 - Raleigh Fire Chief discuss creating a rescue squad. The idea isn’t pursued, due to a change of (fire department?) administration.


1950 - Raleigh City Directory lists the following ambulance services:

1953 - Raleigh Emergency Rescue Squad incorporated. The creation of a rescue squad is initially led by the city manager, the Fire Chief, and Asst. Fire Chief. The non-profit organization is operated/hosted by Raleigh FD, but includes dozens of volunteer members. The squad ends up as a first aid and rescue service, and occasionally as patient transport. (8/27/53)


N&O story on May 6, 1966, sheds some light on the squad’s role with patient transport. At a car accident in Raleigh, the police dispatcher called Raleigh Ambulance Service. They later called back and said no ambulances of theirs were available. The dispatcher then called the Raleigh squad, and Overby’s Funeral Home. The first-arriving unit provide the transport, which was the Raleigh squad. It appears the Raleigh squad served as back-up or alternate, in the event the primary Raleigh ambulance provider(s) were not available.

1955 - Raleigh City Directory lists the following ambulance services:


1960 - Raleigh City Directory lists the following ambulance services:

1962 - Wendell Rescue Squad incorporated. (7/23/62)

Wendell memories:

1964 - Raleigh phone book lists the following ambulance services:

1965, March - Research report states that state and local governments in North Carolina should be authorized to help provide supervised ambulance service. The two-year study provides numerous recommendations, and also observes that funeral homes have ceased providing ambulance service in at least ten counties. (N&O, 3/16/65)

1965, October - Six of seven funeral homes in Raleigh cease ambulance service. The owners contended that “deficit operations were no longer worth the advertising and good will that furnishing ambulance service brought. The number of unpaid bills was increasing, and falls calls were coming more and more numerous. It was inconvenient to maintain personnel on duty 24 hours a day. Competition was also not proving to be healthy.”  (N&O, 11/20/66) 

Only Overby Funeral Home continues operating ambulance service, with two ambulances. Ceasing operations are likely Brown-Wynne FH, Capitol FH, Lightner FH, Mitchell FH, Pennington-Smith FH, and Raleigh FH. (1964 phone book.) This becomes a statewide trend. In June 1966, fifty-one funeral directors in nine Piedmont counties notify city and county governments that they’ll cease ambulance service. (N&O, 7/19/66). 

Raleigh Funeral home memories:

1965, November 1 - Ambulance Service of Raleigh begins operation.


1965 - Wake Forest Rescue Squad incorporated. (1/19/65)

Wake Forest Rescue Squad memories:

1966 - Raleigh phone book lists the following ambulance services:

1966 - Ambulance service issues and events in Raleigh include:

1967 - Legislation is passed at the state level, about ambulance operation:

1967 - Ambulance service issues and events in Raleigh that year include:

1968 - Ambulance service issues and events in Raleigh that year include:

1969, around - Beacon Ambulance Service renamed from Raleigh Ambulance Service. First appears in Raleigh phone book in 1969 yellow pages.

Beacon locations included:

Beacon memories:

Fred Loy:

Resident next door, July 1973 to March 1978:

Jason Thompson:


1970, by - Funeral homes are getting out of patient transport business. Raleigh phone book that year lists only two funeral homes (Raleigh, Wendell) under Ambulances. Raleigh city directory lists none under Ambulances.

County ambulance company memories:

Community Ambulance (Zebulon area) operated an older Cadillac as a convalescent unit, believed a 1967 Cadillac/Superior that was metallic blue.

County funeral home memories:

1970 - Ambulance Aid Inc. is listed in Raleigh phone book. Address is 3207 Hillsborough Street. They are listed along with Beacon Ambulance Service, which is also operating a medical rental and sales division by that year.

1971, circa - Overby Funeral Home ceases ambulance service. They are not listed in the 1971 phone book.

1971 - Ambulance Aid Inc. at two locations (613 W. North Street and 3207 Hillsborough Street) listed in Raleigh City Directory, along with Beacon Ambulance Service at 209 Hillsborough Street. The company is not listed in the Raleigh phone book for that year, nor appears in any directory or phone book in 1972 or later.

1971 - Cary Area Rescue Squad incorporated. (10/29/71)

Cary memories:

Fred Loy memories, about October 1971 pedestrian struck call that led to creation of the squad:

1971 - Apex Rescue Squad incorporated. (9/8/71)  

Apex notes:

1972 - Furina Rescue Squad incorporated. Legal name is simply Furina Rescue Inc. Likely named after the rural fire district of the same name. More commonly called Fuquay-Varina Rescue Squad. (4/21/72)

Fuquay-Varina memories:

1974 - Last year that a funeral home is listed as an ambulance service in the Raleigh phone book.

1974 - Zebulon Area Rescue Squad incorporated. (2/28/74)

Zebulon memories:

The first vehicle acquired by the Zebulon Rescue Squad was the 1954 GMC panel van that originally and initially served the Raleigh Emergency Rescue Squad. The vehicle was given free of charge, with only 18,000 miles on odometer. It would be used as a utility vehicle, to carry heavy rescue equipment and tow the rescue boat. Source: Zebulon Record, November 21, 1974.

1975 - Beacon seeks increasing county subsidy. Other issues related to Beacon also happening.

1975 - Garner/St. Mary’s Rescue Squad incorporated. (January 13, 1975)

Garner memories:

1976 - Raleigh Fire Department/Wake County “rescue medic” program posed, rejected.

Legeros summary:

Tuesday before April 21, 1976 - Wake County Board of Commissioners rejects a proposed city-county ambulance, and instead votes to create a county-financed ambulance service for Raleigh and northwestern Wake County. The Raleigh City Council approved the plan two weeks prior, but the commissioners were split on approving the city-county plan, or continuing to subsidize Beacon Ambulance Service Inc. The compromise vote, for county-only service, was four to one.  The estimated cost of the new service was set at $388,000, a figure based on purchasing four new ambulances and hiring about twenty-six people to operate them. After collecting ambulance fees, the net cost for the county was estimated at $298,000. This contrasted with the county’s $345,000 cost before collections, of the city-county plan. And the Beacon subsidy would have cost $194,500. (N&O, 4/21/76)

1976 - Wake County EMS placed in service on August 15, 1976. They responded to nineteen ambulance calls. They responded in less than five minutes to twelve of the calls. Five were automobile accidents. Two EMS stations are opened: Station 1 at McDowell and Martin streets (EMS 1, EMS 4) and Station 2 at the Wake County Home on Whitaker Mill Road (EMS 2). The third station on Six Forks Road would be opened in several weeks (EMS 3). The original staff consists of twenty-six employees: Director, Chief Supervisor, Three Shift Supervisors, and twenty-one field EMTs.

1976 - Beacon Ambulance Service loses its contract and $8,400 subsidy from Wake County on August 15. Owner James Huffstettler creates a new company, Medical Transport Services, which provides convalescent transport on a “cash and carry business.” The new company is located at 2232 Wake Forest Road. The assets of his former company are seized by the IRS in September, which wants to collect $25,000 in unpaid federal taxes. The company has six ambulances, along with medical and office equipment. They are sold at auction starting on the Wednesday after September 28, 1976. Local fire departments and rescue squads are notified of the auction. Huffstettler had previously asked the county for both an increase in monthly subsidy, and help collecting unpaid bills. Neither request was granted. (N&O, 9/28/76)

Convalescent services that have operated in Raleigh over the years/decades have included:

1976 - Raleigh FD begins training firefighters as EMTs, for eventual city-wide First Responder program.

1976 - Six Forks Rescue incorporated. (12/30/76)

Six Forks memories:

Six Forks notes:

2005, October - Placed ambulance in service at airport-owned warehouse building at 6901 Mt. Herman Road. The 1972 building was obtained by the airport in 1990. Two rescue boats and a light trailer are also/later located there.

1977 - Knightdale Area Rescue Squad incorporates. (3/30/77)



1980 - Raleigh FD first responder program expands city wide, April 1, 1980.

1984 - Wake County EMS advances to EMT-Intermediate.

1981 - Northern Wake Rescue & EMS created, renamed from WFRS.

NWREMS memories:

1982 - Fairview FD becomes first Wake County fire department to offer First Responder service. Chosen due to location between four rescue districts: Apex, Cary, Fuquay-Varina, and Garner. March 1982.

First responder memories:

1982-83 - New UHF radio system installed for EMS agencies and rescue squads.

1984 - Wake County EMS implements EMT-Paramedic. County rescue squads soon begin receiving training for personnel, and/or deploying Wake County paramedics for their units. Some county squads continue using WCEMS paramedics through 1999.  [ Alternate year is 1983. N&O, 9/10/91 ]

1986 - Paramedic service added at Cary, Garner, and Six Forks rescue squads. (N&O, 9/10/91)

1989 - Rescue, Extrication, & Delivery Specialists or REDS incorporated. (May 11, 1989).

1990 - Citizen’s committee recommends that the county place paramedics at all six rescue squads for three years to provide uniform service. The cost is estimated at $500,000 for nine paramedics and their supplies. (N&O, 9/10/91)

1990 - Furina Rescue Squad ceases operations, after town votes to cease funding. The squad operates from a town-owned building, and was receiving a $3,000 allocation this year. The town asks the county to provide “full rescue services” until a new squad is organized, and approved by both Wake and Harnett Counties. The town board had a “long-standing desire” to improve rescue services in Fuquay-Varina, and particularly keep a paramedic on duty around the clock. (N&O, 11/1/90)

1990 - Wake County EMS establishes service at RDU Airport (EMS 6), first unit stationed outside city limits, December 1990.

1991 - Fuquay-Varina Area Rescue Squad incorporated on February 6, 1991. Wake County EMS assumes primary service in Fuquay-Varina.

Notes from April 4, 1991, News & Observer:

  By April 15:

  By December 31

1992 - Garner EMS and Rescue Squad created, from Garner-St. Mary’s Rescue Squad. The name change is filed December 31, 1992.

1992 - Northern Wake Rescue & EMS votes to reorganize in June. Wake County EMS begins providing EMS service in August, while reorganization takes place. County commissioners, notes the N&O story, expect to provide service countywide by 1994. (N&O, 2/4/93) Horace Macon takes charge of squad and “turns it around.” The have twelve EMTs then, but June 1993 they have thirty-five, with plans for more than dozen to be paramedics within a year. (N&O, 6/2/93)

1993 - County commissioners approve a plan allowing all county residents the option of paying annual subscription fees, the way that those served by rescue squads have done for years. Residents can pay $50 per year, or be billed between $109 and $300 for calls. (N&O, 3/2/93)

1993 - Paramedics added at Wendell and Zebulon, after July 1. (N&O, 3/2/93)

1995 - Wake Forest EMS created, renamed from Northern Wake Rescue & EMS. Name change filed August 28, 1995.

1995 - Rolesville EMS incorporated on February 2, 1995.

Rolesville memories:

From N&O, 3/16/95:

  It would provide service to nearly 4,000 homes and 20,000 people within a six-mile radius, and dividing in half the area currently served by Northern Wake Rescue.

From N&O, 8/10/97:

1997 - Fuquay-Varina EMS, renamed from FVARS. Name change filed March 25, 1997.

1997 - Cary Area EMS created, renamed from CARS. Name changed filed June 30, 1997. Also by that time, they had ceased providing technical rescue services.

1997 - Apex EMS created, renamed from AVRS. Name change filed October 27, 1997.

1998 - Wake County EMS adds ambulance in Wake Forest, in advance of Wake Forest EMS ceasing service. (Before February 1998)

1998 - County commissioners as county staff to develop short-term improvement plans, to provide EMS service to Holly Springs and Wake Forest. The county has received complaints from both towns about inadequate service. Holly Springs has asked to start its own EMS service, and has purchased two ambulances and equipment. The town has also asked the county for help financing the service. Currently, ambulances from Apex and Fuquay-Varina answer calls in Holly Springs. In Wake Forest, the rescue squad is disbanding by March 31. That will leave only one county ambulance to serve the town. Wake Forest officials want a second ambulance. The commissioners also discuss hiring a consultant to study the county system and make recommendations county-wide. (N&O 2/3/98)

1998 - County commissioners approve the structure of a twenty-five member task force, to oversee a study of EMS services in Wake County. (N&O, 3/11/98)

1998 - Wake Forest EMS disbands in March. The town is left with only one “county ambulance” to serve the area. The corporate dissolution is filed November 25, 1998.

1998 - Holly Springs Fire Department begins EMS service on April 1, 1998. They are licensed as a BLS provider, and Wake County provides one full-time Wake County paramedic and ALS supplies. The town provides one ambulance, a driver, and all equipment. Source: Wake County Board of Commissioner Meeting Minutes, February 16, 1998.

They operate an ambulance for over a decade, including later with a full-time paramedic provided by Wake County EMS.

1999 - TriData’s Comprehensive Assessment of the Wake County Emergency Medical Services System Final Report received.


2001 - Fuquay-Varina EMS ceases operation on April 1. (N&O, 2/17/01)

2001 - Zebulon Area Rescue Squad renamed Zebulon EMS. Name change filed July 27, 2001.

2003 - Wendell Rescue Squad renamed Wendell EMS. Name change filed April 25, 2003.

2005 - Eastern Wake EMS formed in July 2005, as a merger of Knightdale Area Rescue Squad, Wendell EMS, and Zebulon EMS.



2006 - Radio systems are changed from UHF to 800 mhz VIPER system, January 2006.

2007 - Wake County EMS adds Major Operations Support Unit and begins providing rehab / greater rehab service at fires and major incidents. First call answered on April 17, 2007.

2008 - Rolesville EMS merges with Eastern Wake EMS. Merger document filed May 13, 2008.

2009 - Wake County EMS adds Advanced Practice Paramedic (APP) program, January 6, 2009.

2010 - Garner EMS & Rescue Squad ceases EMS operations on/around May 31, 2010. Service assumed by Wake County EMS. Around the same time, the squad ceases providing rescue services. Its remaining operation is providing non-emergency medical transport services.

2010 - Holly Springs loses county subsidy for salaries of three paramedics, to staff the fire-rescue ambulance.

2011 - Apex EMS merges with town, becomes part of fire department for about a year. Corporate disillusion filed on July 8, 2011.

2011 - Six Forks EMS ceases operation. Service assumed by Wake County EMS. Organization files corporate dissolution with the state on July 27, 2011.

2011 - Garner Rescue Squad merges with REDS.

Mike, I cant state for sure when the dates were but Wake New Hope started offering first responder not too long after Fairview…I know I was in the first class and that had to have been around 1982-5? Also WNH had a Rescue bodied truck that was a 1974 Chevrolet 3500 with a Murphy body and if memory serves me right, that was almost the same body that was on the two Raleigh Rescue trucks that were similar vintage (Rescue 6 and Rescue 7?)...New Hope’s was a 350 powered truck with a three speed manual shift. The Murphy body was remounted on a 1991-2 3500 with a 454 engine that I recall overheating a lot…not sure where the truck went after that….the unit looked like an ambulance but really was used to carry the Hurst tool and motor along with other miscellaneous tools. I cant say for sure when the department got the Hurst tool but it was the original Chrysler power unit with the large jaws much like the one that Six Forks had..it was certainly there when I first went in 1980.
Mike Hodgson - 01/15/14 - 22:43

Couple of things-

Raleigh-Durham Airport CFR started responding to medical calls in late 1977/early 1978. RDU CFR was not at that time a ‘first responder’ agency, but they were approved by NCOEMS as a “rescue only” provider and had to have certain required equipment. At that time Cary Area Rescue responded to calls in the terminals and the South Ramp area, while Six Forks Rescue Squad responded to the areas north of the airport. At that time medical calls on the airport were called in directly to the fire station or to the police department. RDU CFR would respond to the call and determine if transport was needed. Usually, there was only one person that responded on CFR-1 on the medical calls, but in the case of something like a cardiac arrest we would try and send some help. At any rate, I spent quite a bit of time by myself pumping on someone’s chest or wishing that the ambulance would hurry up. And of course, in those days, the rescue squads, like the fire departments, were very territorial. I remember one night spending over thirty minutes on an Eastern Airlines 727 doing CPR with a stewardess (or are they all flight attendants now?) helping me.

In early 1978, medical calls were answered in either CT-1 (1957 Chevrolet pick-up) or CS-11 (1975 Plymouth Fury station wagon). For a while, we had one of the ‘big green boxes’ for the medical kit, and since we did not know exactly which unit we would take at any given time, the green jump kit was kept in the station. In 1979 CT-1 was replaced by a 1979 Chevrolet K-30 with the utility body (there is a picture of me and this truck with all of the equipment in one of Mike’s Wake County Firefighting books) and shortly after the station wagon went to the police department.
Apex EMS became part of the Town of Apex in March 2010. The merger into the town had been proposed several times but was not given the ‘go ahead’ until early 2009. It was originally supposed to take place in October 2009, but was postponed a couple of times until March 2010. In March 2011 in was proposed to turn EMS over to Wake County, but it was decided in June 2010 or so to retain EMS as an agency of the Town of Apex, but it was separated from the Apex Fire Department in FY2011-2012. There was only one ambulance that was ever lettered for “APEX FIRE & EMS”, although all of them had the short-lived Apex Fire & EMS emblem on the doors.

Medical Transport Service (MTS) was the immediate successor to Beacon Ambulance. They had four ambulances for a while- two 1972 Pontiac/Superior 54” ambulances, a 1970 Cadillac/Miller-Meteor 48” ambulance, and a 1967(?) Oldsmobile/Cotner-Bevington combination car.
DJ - 01/15/14 - 23:21

Thanks DJ and Mike. That raises a good question, should my timeline track the introduction of rescue services in each of the fire departments as well? I will give that some thought!
Legeros - 01/15/14 - 23:51

For the list of convalescent/transport services, please add Metro Ambulance Service. They ran in the early 1990’s and had an office in Raleigh and Benson. A lot of our local rescue and EMS personnel worked with them.
Jason Thompson (Email) (Web Site) - 01/16/14 - 01:22

Random Thoughts About EMS and Stuff

1. Johnston Ambulance (now known as ‘JAS’) also maintained an office in Raleigh (they still do). During the late 1990s they were based in the same building as the 24-hour emergency veterinary clinic on South Wilmington Street.

2. A lot of fire apparatus also sported the Civil Defense logos. I remember specifically a 50’s model Ford/Howe based in Fuquay-Varina. I don’t ever remember seeing the Civil Defense logo on EMS or rescue trucks, other than the RFD Reo, but there were a couple of patches worn on uniforms that were based on the Civil Defense logo (I have a couple of those in my patch box).

3. Not sure if anyone around here used it, but when I was going to the NC Rescue College in Durham, there was an extrication device called “Cecil’s Rig” that was demonstrated several times. Apparently, a rescue squad member from the western part of NC named Cecil designed it.

4. Sometime during the 70s the Garner panel truck was replaced by a Chevrolet Step-Van, which was later sent to 50-210 Comm. FD.

5. One year during the Garner Fireman’s Day parade (late 60s/ early 70s) an ambulance from Overby FH was included. It was a mid 60’s Ford station wagon, light blue, with the single Federal 17 Beacon Ray light, plus red headlight bulbs.

6. One of the EMS agencies around here had a red station wagon that was used as an ambulance in the late 60s. Growing up in SE Raleigh I used to see it driving out New Bern Avenue with lights and sirens, but it went by so fast that I never saw the name on it.

7. Saw several patients transported on the RFD rescue units, especially the 1966 Chevrolet.

8. Cary Area RS originally carried their Hurst tool on their second ambulance, a 1973 or 1974 Chevrolet/Murphy, which was based on the design of the Swab ambulances. They transferred it to the original #581, which was a 1975 or so F350 (later sold to Fuquay-Varina RS, then acquired by the Town of Holly Springs, and later seen in private ownership in Holly Springs). When I joined CARS in 1979, the old Chevy/Murphy (#572) had a permanent ‘lean’ which a couple of older members told me came from carrying the old Hurst tool which was a beast.
DJ - 01/16/14 - 18:17

One memory I have is of RESCOM dispatching us out at Clayton. Back then EVERYONE regionally was on 155.280 and if they needed Clayton then RESCOM paged us out. I also remember units having to request “10-39 clearance” to come through Raleigh. You would give your route of travel to RESCOM and after a pause would receive, “No known obstructions at this time, you are cleared authority of PD Raleigh.” I may even have some tapes somewhere with that on there. I have some audio recordings of dispatches from the 80’s and early 90’s on cassette tape in storage. I also remember the dispatcher having to “Patch” you to the hospital on the UHF med channels. It seems like it was most commonly Med 7 or Med 5 and then dispatch was on Med 9 for city units.
Jason Thompson (Email) (Web Site) - 01/17/14 - 05:37

Going way back, it seems like the only folks not on 155.280 around here were Orange County, Durham County, and Franklin County. The Town of Cary also was dispatched on a different channel, and Cary Area Rescue Squad was dispatched on that channel. Otherwise, from our perch out at RDU, we could hear Moore, Lee, Chatham, Granville, Nash, Johnston, Wayne, and Harnett Counties (or at least specific agencies in those counties) all dispatching their local “rescue monitors” or “rescue pagers”, telling them to “go 10-8, go 10-8”. The radio power of some of those dispatch points was pretty strong- people I know from down around Washington and Plymouth had heard “Selma PD, Selma Rescue, Selma PD, Selma Rescue, go 10-8, go 10-8, you have a rescue call”. Locally, I remember hearing Apex, Wendell, Zebulon, and Wake Forest all dispatched by their local PD on 155.280.

JT- I had forgotten all about “clearing” through Raleigh. Used to hear them call it out on Raleigh One (RPD)- “Attention all units, clearing 10-52 Clayton Rescue, 10-39 to Wake ER, KSC-446”.

Sigh…vast repository of useless facts…
DJ - 01/17/14 - 09:25

Yep….155.280….KUZ732, WZX555, KNCM293 Raleigh Rescom…...not to mention KIQ206 and KII313

Mike Hodgson - 01/17/14 - 23:12

KSZ446, WNCK345
Russell - 01/18/14 - 08:43

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