North Carolina Strike Force 1

...and NC USAR Task Forces, NC Canine Emergency Response Team, Forysth Rescue Squad, and more!

Last updated: May 17, 2017

Change log:



Heard of North Carolina Strike Force 1?

They were the state's first Urban Search and Rescue (USAR) team, and they started in the late 1990s. They were conceived as regional technical rescue team that was based in Forsyth and Davidson counties. They were incorporated as a non-profit organization in 2000, and renamed from "Strike Force" to "Task Force" in May 2000. Two years later, they shortened their name to NCTF-1.

But wait, Batman, the state-sponsored USAR task forces weren't created until 2003. What's the story here? Thanks to some readers and a recent discussion on social media, here's a history of the organization, as well as one of their founding agencies, the now-defunct Forsyth Rescue Squad. 

Short Version

Note: This "short version" was created for a blog posting about this page, posted on May 8, 2017.

North Carolina Strike Force 1

Photo courtesy of Jeff Hinshaw

Late 1990s - First USAR Team in North Carolina

1998 - North Carolina Strike Force 1 is organized in the latter part of 1998. The initial services they provide are trench, collapse, and technical rescue, through their first two member agencies: Forsyth Rescue Squad and Thomasville Rescue Squad.

1999, July - First canine training conducted, which added a canine search and rescue (SAR) function to the team.

1999, September - First deployment of NCSF1, to Hurricane Floyd, via the state EM.

1999 - After the devastating impact of Hurricane Floyd, North Carolina Emergency Management (NC EM) begins developing regional USAR teams, to address gaps in capabilities of local responders (and federal teams, which are too far away to be effective resources).

2000-2002 - Incorporation, New Names, New Members

Circa 2000 - NCSF-1 expands to include Troutman Fire-Rescue.

2000, May - North Carolina Strike Force One, Incorporated as non-profit charitable corporation. The purposes of the organization are: l>

The initial board of directors are:

Other notes:

2000, June - Snapshot:

2000, November - Snapshot:

2000, December - Equipment carried on USAR 1 includes:

Read this PDF document (2.4M) from December 2000, with the full list of equipment carried.

2000, December - Snapshot:

2001 - The organization is renamed North Carolina Task Force One, Incorporated.

2001, November - Snapshot:

2001-2002, circa - Two search and rescue teams join Task Force One:

2002 - The organization is renamed NCTF-1, Incorporated.

2003 - State System Established, Another New Name, Forsyth Rescue Closes

2003 - By this time, NCTF-1 was operating as a state-sponsored USAR team. Their organization name wasn't changed, but they operated in the state system as NC USAR Task Force 4.

2003, circa - Thomasville Rescue Squad withdraws from NCTF-1, and forms their own state-recognized USAR task force.

2003 - Forsyth Rescue Squad disbands.

2004-2013 - New Members, Task Force Disbanded

2004 - NCCERT relocates to Apex, N.C. See next section.

2004 - Apex Fire Department joins Task Force 4. See next section.

2004 - Task Force 4 membership consisted of:

2006 - Morrisville Fire Department joins Task Force 4.

2013 - Task Force 4 dissolved, along with three other teams, after NCEM streamlines the number of USAR regional teams needed to serve the state. 

Short History of North Carolina USAR Task Forces

1989 - FEMA creates the National Urban Search and Rescue Response system, after recognizing the value of a network of such USAR teams as were created in the early 1980s—by fire departments to deal with rescue operations in collapsed buildings—in Fairfax County, VA, and Metro-Dade County, in FL. Three years later, the concept was incorporated into the Federal Response Plan, first published that year. FEMA sponsored 25 national USAR task forces.

1995 - Shortly after Oklahoma City bombing, some states being building USAR capabilities, as well. Many of the state programs, like the later North Carolina teams, are developed through local Emergency Management agencies.

2001 - After the events of September 11, 2001, federal money was made available through North Carolina Emergency Management to develop a statewide USAR program to respond and assist impacted communities when local resources were taxed beyond their capabilities.

2002 - NCEM implements progressive plan to establish regional USAR teams across the state. The Task Forces are focused around a modular resource package that supports a wide array of disasters, from collapsed buildings, to flood response, to communications and logistical support.

2003 - Eleven regional USAR teams are identified, with various size teams and geographic locations. In the Raleigh-Durham area, Task Force 8 becomes operational in September 2003.[1]

2013 - NCEM streamlines the number of USAR regional teams needed to serve the state. Four teams are dissolved:

[1] The story of NC USAR Task Force 8:

Right: NCTF8 fleet in April 2011. Courtesy NCTF8.

List of Original Task Forces

Here's a snapshot of the state teams, and their original classifications, before they were reduced in 2013:



Plus other stuff to be added, acknowledgements, etc.

Forsyth Rescue Squad History

This history is adapted from text that originally appeared on the organization's former web page, which was retrieved using the Internet Archives.

1959 to 1969

Forsyth Rescue Squad was chartered February 28, 1959, by the North Carolina Civil Defense Office, with a mission to engage in rescue and first aid activities for the public welfare. The original membership consisted of eight men dedicated to the preservation of life and assisting their fellow man when in need. The original Squad vehicle, a 1951 Dodge military-type ambulance, was parked under a big oak tree on the parking lot of its sponsor, Moose Lodge 466, located at 1495 Old Salisbury Road.

Early activities of the squad included participating in Operation Snowcap in northwest North Carolina, and the search for crew members that were aboard a B-52 that crashed near Denton., N.C., in 1961. Forsyth Rescue was again cast into the spotlight on January 18, 1964, when five young Forsyth County boys fell through an ice covered pond in Salem Woods and drowned.

In 1962, the squad was incorporated by the state as Forsyth Rescue Squad, Inc. The articles of incorporation were filed on May 9, 1962.

In 1965, the first squad building was erected. To protect the equipment from the weather, it was constructed on land leased to the squad by the Moose Lodge. The lease was received from the Lodge in 1965, and the building permit was signed on April 26, 1965.

InIn 1966, a paging system for alerts was added. The communications at this time consisted mostly of telephones and citizen band radios. These were updated with the installation of a  Plectron Alerting paging system in the fall of 1966. The Plectron allowed all members to be notified of an emergency simultaneously. This same system remained in use through the life of the squad.

In 1969, the chassis for a new rescue truck was purchased. Various pieces of rescue equipment were donated by individuals and organizations. This community support allowed the Squad to purchase a Ford truck chassis in 1969. A heavy rescue body was added later, and the combination made the Technical Rescue Truck a reality.

1970 to 1979

In June 1971, additional classroom space, kitchen, shower and bedroom facilities were added to the squad building.

In April 1973, the squad placed a modular-type ambulance in service. This was the first transport unit of this type in Forsyth County. The squad also began participating in the county-wide Ambulance Assist program, a forerunner of today's First Responder program. This program allows the county Emergency Medical Services to dispatch the nearest rescue squad to a medical emergency, to stabilize a patient as quickly as possible, prior to transport.

In the spring of 1974, the squad was first again with they purchased the first Hurst tool in the area. This unique tool is a complement to the hand tools carried on the Technical Rescue Truck.

In 1975, a four-wheel drive Suburban-type vehicle was purchased, for use as a Quick Response Vehicle. It replaced an ambulance that had been acquired from the Forsyth County Ambulance Service.

During 1977, the squad building at 1499 Old Salisbury Road was completely renovated,  and the parking lot was paved. Also that year, Advanced Life Support equipment (Life-Pak 4) and cardiac drugs were placed on squad vehicles, after seven members were certified as Mobile Intensive Care Technicians.

In 1978, Forsyth Rescue Squad, in conjunction with the Winston-Salem Rescue Squad, began a pilot Infant Transport Program with the N. C. Baptist Hospital's Intensive Care Nursery. This concept allowed a trained medical team to be dispatched to outlying hospitals to stabilize critically ill newborn infants and then transport them to N. C. Baptist Hospital.

In 1979, a Chevrolet Blazer was purchased to replace the 4-wheel drive Quick Response Vehicle. Also in 1979 and 1980, new ropes, additional chains, and a 30-inch Hurst hydraulic ram were also acquired.

1980 to 1989

The squad spent 1981 in preparation for the 25th Annual Convention of the North Carolina Association of Rescue Squads, which Forsyth Rescue Squad hosted October 9 through 11 at the Convention Center in Winston-Salem.

In April 1982, a Wheeled Coach Ambulance replaced the modular unit that was purchased in 1973. Also that year, the manila ropes on the Technical Rescue Truck were also replaced with poly-plus rope in October, and a 24-foot extension ladder was purchased in November.

During 1983, the squad became a member of the United Way of Forsyth County. Also that year, a larger, heavy duty chassis for the Technical Rescue Truck was purchased in the early spring of 1983, with a new Ford F-600 chassis to replace the overloaded 1969 chassis. The new truck responded on its first pin-in on June 16, 1983. During August, two new electric drills, an electric skill saw, and new wrenches and sockets were added to the tools carried on the Technical Rescue Truck.

In  January 1984, the squad took delivery of two General Electric 5-watt portable radios, a Hurst cutting tool. Also that year, Moose Lodge #466 donated an additional tract of land to the squad. This land, to the west of the building, replaced land used for building expansion, and served as a parking lot. Also in 1984, the squad acquired a Wheeled Coach light rescue Quick Response Vehicle, but which was totalled in a wreck later that year.  Also, 1984 was the first year for Forsyth Rescue Squad as a funded member of the United Way.

On September 25, 1984, Forsyth Rescue Squad suffered the loss of one of its members in the line of duty. Training Officer Stephen G. Richey, 34, was killed along with a helicopter pilot, when they were attempting to rescue a construction worker trapped atop a water tower in Kernersville. The aircraft backed into one of the tower's legs, which separated the tail rotor, and it spun to the ground, crashing and killing both occupants. Richey was a thirteen-year member of the squad, serving as a paramedic and EMT IV. "No greater love has any man than that he lay down his life for a friend." Richey was buried at Parklawn Memorial Gardens. His name was added to the National EMS Memorial in 2000. See also this page from the national memorial site.

The Indiana Gazette Wednesday, September 26, 1984

Helicopter crashes in rescue attempt KERNERSVILLE, N.C. (AP)

The; decision to use a helicopter at night to retrieve the body of a worker who bled to death while pinned atop a water tower was a last resort, officials said after the chopper hit the tower and crashed, killing two people.

Three previous attempts to rescue Charles Glenwood Tompkins Jr. with a 75-foot aerial ladder, a 90-foot cherry picker and with ropes handled by rescuers who scaled the 140- foot tower had failed, officials said Tuesday night. Both Tompkins' legs were broken when a girder he cut fell the wrong way, pinning him to the tower.

He bled to death four hours later, about ten minutes before WFMY-TV's news helicopter arrived, said Dr. Lew W. Stringer, chief Forsyth County Medical examiner, who organized the rescue operation in this north-central North Carolina town.

As the helicopter approached the tower, it struck a protruding piece of steel and crashed on top of a nearby building, rupturing gas lines and setting the structure on fire as 350 horrified onlookers watched. Mayor Roger Swisher said the helicopter turned over like it was in "a giant somersault, and everybody started hollering 'Oh my God, Oh my God.'"

The crash killed the pilot, Thomas J. Haroski, 39, of Clemmons, and Steve Richey of Winston-Salem, a member of the Forsyth Rescue Squad, Stringer said. Haroski was the executive vice president of Triad Helicopters Inc., which owned the helicopter that crashed. "I'd do the same thing again.... I'm sure we'll think of ways we could have done it differently ...," Stringer said of his decision to use the helicopter.

Workers were able to remove the pilot's body late Tuesday night, but Richey's body remained in the helicopter for hours until firefighters put out the flames. Tompkins' body was brought down at 3:30 a.m. today by a crane. Haroksi had cooperated with law enforcement agencies in the past, and Jim Collins, WFMY news director, said, "That helicopter and he were one and the same.... He helped people, which is what he was trying to do tonight."

Safety inspectors from the Federal Aviation Administration's Winston-Salem office will investigate the accident today, said inspector Paul Justus.

Tompkins, 29, was trapped about 6:10 p.m. when the 20-foot section he was cutting from the top of one of the tower's four legs fell in the wrong direction, crushing his legs, Stringer said. The tower was being razed to make room for a parking lot.

Rescue workers tied him in place. Dale Roberts of the Kernersville Rescue Squad stayed on a beam and held Tompkins until he died, Stringer said. "He apparently bled to death because we couldn't get him down," Stringer said. "He was alive until about 10 minutes before the helicopter crashed."

By the time the chopper lifted off from Kernersville Junior High School, three rescue attempts had failed. Haroski was notified that Tompkins was dead and was asked to retrieve the body, Stringer said. Greensboro chopper goes down in an attempt to rescue a construction worker.

On January 1, 1984, Forsyth Rescue Squad assumed the field duties of the Forsyth Water Rescue Team. Divers were recruited and the Underwater Search and Recovery function was added to the squads' capabilities. A 1985 Chevrolet four-wheel drive Suburban was purchased for a Quick Response Vehicle, and the Chevy Blazer was converted to a utility vehicle for use by the Underwater Search and Recovery Unit. Also that year, a hydraulic winch was mounted on the front of our Technical Rescue Truck.

In 1986, work was completed on a 5,000-plus square-foot addition to the squad building, at a cost of approximately $110,000. Three large bays and a classroom were added, which allowed renovation of existing space to create offices, storage, and separate sleeping quarters for female members.

Since that year, the squad acquired air Bags for technical rescue, two newer Quick Response Vehicles, and a new Technical Rescue Truck.

1990 to 1999

In 1990, the Forsyth Rescue Squad Dive Team added a Chevrolet dive van, equipped to handle twenty dive tank and four sets of gear configured for immediate deployment and diving. It was also equipped with a 6500 watt generator and a lighting system.

In 1991 the dive team partnered with Carolina Yamaha for a program that provides the dive team with a demonstrator-model jet ski each year, for use with water rescue.

Also in 1991, the year started with the purchase of a trench rescue trailer and equipment, purchased with a matching state grant from the North Carolina Department of Insurance.

In 1992, a custom-built heavy rescue truck was purchased from 3D Corporation, and using a 1992 International chassis. The squad's twenty two year-old Technical Rescue truck was converted for use as part of the squad's trench rescue response.

In 1995, Forsyth Rescue Squad adopted the State of North Carolina Basic Rescue Technician and Advanced Rescue Technician standards as minimum standards for training. Also during that year, Forsyth Rescue replaced its QRV with a 1996 Ford F-350.

In 1996, Forsyth Rescue Squad begin a training program to provide service at an EMT-D level.

In 1997, the required number of EMTs were certified at the EMT-D level, and a defibrillator was purchased for the Quick Response Vehicle. Also that year, the squad's 1982 Wheeled Coach Ambulance was replaced with a new ambulance. Also, a Zodiac boat was purchased to replace the dive team's aging flat bottom boat

2000 to 2003

By the 2000s, the squad's call volume had greatly reduced. In July 2003, the squad ceased operations. It was dissolved as a corporation and Articles of Disillusion were filed with the state on August 11, 2003. First responder within the city limits was assumed by Winston-Salem Fire Department. Source:

Chartered in 1962, the squad had operated for 51 years. They were not the oldest squad in the county, however. The Winston-Salem Rescue Squad started in 1937 and was chartered in 1947.

The squad building and its assets were disposed to North Carolina Canine Emergency Response Team (NCCERT), which shared the building and was another participation agency in NCSF-1.

Though the squad and then NCCERT owned the building, they did not own the land. NCCERT negotiated with the Moose Lodge, the properties, but with no resolution. In January 1999, the building was vacated, and NCCERT and their former Forsyth Rescue Squad assets relocated to Apex, NC. See next section.

Other Notes

FRS was assigned the county number of Station 7.

FRS also had a rescue district in the Griffith FD (Station 15) fire district. They assumed medical response and rescue duties after Station 7 (FRS) closed.

Courtesy Forsyth Rescue Squad

Google Maps Street View, present day


North Carolina Canine Emergency Response Team

New section, under development!


In 1999, the North Carolina Canine Emergency Response Team (NCCERT) was organized.

In August 2000, NCCERT was incorporated as a non-profit charitable organization.

In July 2003, Forsyth Rescue Squad ceased operation.

In August 2003, their corporation disbanded and the squad's building and assets were transferred to NCCERT.

After August 2003, NCCERT started looking for a new home.

In the fall of 2003, NCCERT approached the town of Apex, about forming a partnership.

In January 2004, NCCERT relocated to Apex, NC.

In May 2004, the cooperative agreement between NCCERT and Apex FD was made official.

Terms of the agreement included:

The agreement gave Apex FD access to:

Vehicles housed at Apex Station 3 were:

Other vehicles in the fleet were:

See fleet details below.


In 2006, NCCERT and the town of Apex renewed their agreement.

In April 2006, the town of Apex agreed to purchase NCCERT assets, including:

NCCERT retained possession of the team's water rescue truck, boats, boat trailers, command vehicle, and communications unit.

Both Apex FD and NCCERT continued to operate as part of a Task Force 4.

By August 2007, the team's vehicle fleet as listed on their website was:

In/around 2011, NCCERT and Apex FD ended their partnership. By that time, NCCERT had relocated their business office to Wendell, and their office trailer at Station 2 was vacant. There were also logistical challenges, for NCCERT members who lived in eastern Wake County or Johnston County, the driving distance to Apex was significant. End the partnership was advantageous to both groups.

In 2011, NCCERT disposed of their communications unit, as increasing numbers of responding agencies had their own units.

In 2013, Task Force 4 and three other teams were dissolved, as the state streamlined its USAR resources.

In 2015, NCCERT changed their corporation name to NC K9 Emergency Response Team, Inc. (NC K9 ERT).

The Team Today

Today, the team operates four units: canine search, ground search, sonar water search, and communications. They remain a non-profit charitable organization, supported by donations, and available for statewide response at the request of emergency agencies. They're available 24 hours a day, at the request of emergency agencies. They also work to promote understanding and public awareness of the role of search dogs, through demonstrations and lectures to local and state agencies, schools, and retirement and rest homes.

Courtesy NCCERT and Apex Fire Department

NCCERT Fleet Vehicles in 2004

Fleet information, June 2004:

C-1 Command Unit 1999 Ford F350 Crew Cab 4x4 Dual Wheel w/Shell
Primary Duty Personnel & Equipment, Tow Vehicle
Equipment GPS, Computer (online), VHF, UHF Radios
C-2 Water Response 1996 Ford F350 w/Utility Bed
Primary Duty Water Search & Rescue, Tow Vehicle, Dive Operations
Equipment Water Safety Equipment (Personnel), Ropes & Rigging, Underwater Camera, Medical Equipment
R-3  Heavy Rescue 1992 International Truck w/16' body Roll up Doors
Primary Duty Heavy Rescue (Vehicle Extrication, Low & High angle Rescue, Confined Space and as a Support Unit for Trench Collapse
Equipment On board 12kw Generator, Portable Lighting, Electrical Rescue Tools, On board & Portable Hydraulic Pumps for Hurst Rescue Equipment
C-4 Communications 1994 Ford E350 (Converted Ambulance)
Primary Duty Interoperability for Interagency Operations, Searches, Disasters, Special Events
Equipment VHF, UHF, 800, Low VHF, Marine, CB, Aviation, Alltel, Nextel, Amateur Radio (HF, 2mm, 70mm)Self Contained.
C-5 Boat (Open Water) 2003 Lowe 17' (Aluminum) Modified "v" Hull 7 Person
Primary Duty Canine Search Operations, Water Search, Rescue, Victim Evacuation, Rescue, Dive Operations
Equipment 50hp Motor, GPS, Sonar, Trolling Motor, Radio
C-6 Jon Boat 1993 Aluminum Craft 14' Flat Bottom w/25hp Motor
Primary Duty Canine Search Operations, Rescue, Recovery, Dive
Equipment Basic Water Safety Equipment
C-7 Boat Inflatable 1996 14' Zodiac Hard Bottom w/20hp Jet Motor
Primary Duty Diver, Search Support,
Equipment Basic Water Safety Equipment
C-8 ATV 2004 Yamaha "660 Grizzly" w/5'x10' Trailer
Primary Duty Search, Transport Personnel, Canines, Equipment
Equipment Still being evaluated
C-9 PWC 1999 Kawasaki Jet Ski
Primary Duty Search, Rescue, Transport Personnel, Equipment
Equipment Basic Water Safety Equipment
C-10 PWC 1995 Yamaha Jet Ski
Primary Duty Search, Rescue, Transport Personnel, Equipment
Equipment Basic Water Safety Equipment
T-1 Trailer 2002 Pace Enclosed Cargo W/side door & rear ramp door
Primary Duty Transport required equipment used in Trench Collapse Rescue
Equipment 51-Airshore Struts (pneumatic), 10-Shorform Panels, 7-Ground Pads, Ingersol-Rand Air Compressor, Air Tools, Saws, (Manual & Power)
SC-1 Trailer 2-Air Knife for emergency excavations, 2-Portable Pumps, 2-P
Primary Duty 2002 Pace Enclosed Cargo W/side door & rear ramp door
Equipment Portable Air Compressor, Portable Generator, Pneumatic Nailers, Electric Power Tools, Hand Tools, Shoring Materials, Stanley Hydraulic Pump, 1-35lb, 2-45lb, 1-90lb Breakers, Air Hammer Drill, 3-Set Cordless Power Tools, Paretech Low & High pressure Lift Bags, Hydraulic Jacks, High Lift Jacks, Measuring and Marking Equipment
C-13 NCTF-1 Canine 2003 Haulmark 14' Enclosed Trailer
Primary Duty Canine & Personnel Rehab Unit,  
Mini Ops Command Logistical & Equipment Transport
Equipment Heat & Air Condition, 4.5 kw Honda
Quiet Gen (EU-4500)80 amp Converter, Snake Eye Camera,
Hole Saw (Gas)
C-15 Trailer 2001 Land 18' with Rack
Primary Duty Water Response, Operational Support
Equipment C-6 & C-7, PFD'S, Ropes & Rigging, 12kw Quiet Onan Generator, Mounted & Portable Light Units, 10'x20' Shelter


Other Former Forsyth County Rescue Squads

Other rescue squads no longer operating in Forsyth County include:

Kernersville Rescue Squad

Early ambulance, loaned to Mineral Springs Fire Department in 1987. Courtesy Mineral Springs Fire Department.

Southeast Winston Rescue Squad - Station 4

Squad building in 1974, left


Sources include Winston-Salem Chronicle, via North Carolina Newspapers:

Winston-Salem Rescue Squad



Search Mike Legeros

Spot an error on this page? Please let me know, just click my name below...

Copyright 2021 by Michael J. Legeros