How Often Did Raleigh Rescue Transport Patients?

February 2021
Updated posting with call totals for 1955, and other additions. 

September 3, 2016
The Raleigh Emergency Rescue Squad was created in 1953. It was comprised of civilian volunteers and fire department drivers, and they operated equipment that was housed at the downtown fire station. (Their gear was initially funded by city, county, and private donations. They also subsequently received a monthly stipend from the county.) The squad responded in both the city and the county, but was not intended to compete with local ambulance services. They served primarily as a technical rescue unit, and also transporting patients when ambulances were not available in the city.

The volunteer component diminished over the early years (they primarily assisted with body recovery efforts in local lakes and rivers), and the rescue squad was soon operated exclusively by fire department members. A second rescue was added in 1975. After Wake County EMS was organized in 1976, “Raleigh rescue” served as their back-up, transporting patients when no county ambulance was available.

They also functioned as a private ambulance service, transporting firefighters in circumstances that included injuries at fires, injuries on duty, transfers between home and hospital, and even transporting family members.

How frequently were patients transported? As a sampling of official records finds (see below), they transported a few times a month in 1960 (one rescue), as many as 30 times a month by 1975 (two rescues), about the same amount in 1980, down to some ten a month in 1990 (two rescues), and just a couple times a year around 2001 (two rescues).

They stopped transporting patients around 2001. The reasons included that the department was no longer required to maintain that capability as part of their EMT-D requirement, and likely the very low call volume.

Still looking for more data and more oral histories. Will update as found. Click to enlarge:

Credits, left to right, top to bottom: News & Observer, City of Raleigh, City of Raleigh, Jeff Harkey, Lee Wilson

The Data


  • Rescue squad created.
  • Two-piece unit.
  • 1954 GMC panel van that’s transport-capable.
  • 1954 Reo Civil Defense rescue truck.


Raleigh Emergency Rescue Squad summary of calls for 1955. From the News & Observer, January 31, 1956.

Total 97 calls, reported Fire Chief J. B. Keeter, head of the organization.

  • 52 – Stand by for fire, “at places where crowds congregate”, include 20 false calls**
  • 14 – School visits, for demonstrations
  • 14 – “Give aid to sick and helpless”
  • 9 – Body recoveries from water. (Three of whom survived.)
  • 6 – Heart attack “cases”
  • 2 – Rescue demonstration requests

**Unsure of what’s described there. They performed a “rescue watch” of sorts? And what were false calls as defined therein? TBD.


  • Rescue 1 transporting patients at a rate around three or four a month.
  • Estimate annual total around 45 transports.
  • Source: Fire call ledger.


  • Rescue 1 receives new vehicle: 1966 Chevy panel van.


  • Rescue 1 and new Rescue 9 receive new vehicles: 1974 and 1975 Chevy/Murphy ambulances with added features, such as roof-mounted ladder rack.


  • Rescue 1 performed 11 patient transports in January 1975.
  • One was a patient from a fire at Glenwood Towers.
  • One was a deceased person from a shooting.
  • One was a pair of patients from a tear gas canister explosion (!), probably police officers.
  • One was a motor-vehicle collision where no ambulances were available.
  • Six were firefighter transports, including home to hospital and hospital to home transfers.
  • Estimate annual total transports: 10 per month x 2 rescues x 12 months = 240.
  • Source: Log book.


  • Rescue 1 performed 15 transports in February 1976.
  • The majority were firefighter transports, for injuries and circumstances both on- and off-duty.
  • Estimated annual total transports: 12 per month x 2 rescues x 12 months = 288.
  • Source: Log book.

1976 – July to December

Here are totals for Rescue 1, which was changed to Rescue 3 on July 28.

Note that Wake County EMS was placed in service on August 15, 1976. 

  • July 1976
    • 97 calls
    • 14 citizen transports
  • August 1976
    • 56 calls
    • 10 citizen transports
    • 6 RFD member/family member transports
  • September 1976
    • 38 calls
    • 3 RFD member/family member transports
    • 1 city employee transport
    • 1 citizen transport
  • October 1976
    • 39 calls
    • 1 citizen transport
    • 1 RFD member transport
  • November 1976
    • 42 calls
    • 5 citizen transports
    • 1 RFD member transport
    • 1 city employee transport
  • December 1976
    • 61 calls
    • 3 citizen transports
    • 3 RFD member/family member transports


  • Rescue 12 performed 14 transports in January 1980.
  • One was transfer of firefighter’s mother, from hospital to rest home.
  • One was a firefighter with heat exhaustion at a working fire. Another was a city employee having seizures.
  • Two were motor-vehicle collisions with multiple patients, including a school bus collision where Rescue 12 transported three. This appears to indicate that the rescue units assisted with “overflow”, when multiple patients were found at scenes.
  • Several were for “standard medical calls”: motor-vehicle collisions, cardiac, CVA, injured person, stabbing.
  • Estimated annual total transports: 12 per month x 2 rescues x 12 months = 288.
  • Source: Log book.


  • Rescue 7 performed five transports in August 1990.
  • One was transfer of an inmate as requested by the Wake County Sheriff.
  • One was an injured firefighter from a fire station.
  • One was an injured firefighter from the county fire training center.
  • One was a motor-vehicle accident, where they assisted EMS with transport.
  • One was a “person down” call.
  • Estimate annual total transports: 5 per month x 2 rescues x 12 months = 120.
  • Source: Log book.


  • Two new rescues delivered: 1991 Chevy/Frontline rigs that were a cross between a “heavy ambulance” and a medium-duty rescue.


  • Two new rescues delivered: 2002 Freightliner/American LaFrance/MedicMaster ambulances.

2001, circa

  • Transports performed only a couple times a year, recall members.
  • Stretchers removed from both rescues around 2001.
  • Reasons for the change? It is remembered that the State Office of EMS said that the department did not have to be transport capable to be EMT-D, which was the department’s level of care since 1993.
  • Very infrequent use of the transport capabilities was probably also a factor.


  • Third rescue delivered and placed in service: 2002 International/SVI.
  • Apparatus is a medium-duty, walk-around unit, and not equipped for transport.


  • Two new rescues delivered: 2007 Pierce Enforcers.
  • Heavy-duty, walk-around rigs, and not equipped for transport.
  • One of the older, transport-capable units is retained as a reserve.
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One Comment

  1. Another thing that Rescue did was assist invalids. This was a program that ran for decades, where a rescue unit would respond as a service call, to assist an invalid, with such tasks as getting back into a bed that they had fallen out of. The program was started as a means of tracking invalid residents, which would aid in locating them in the event of a fire. Unsure when it started, maybe 1970s. Continued into the 1990s. Need to find start/stop dates, rough or exact.

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