In the early summer of 1958, a tragic event took place in Haywood County. A small child slipped and fell into the waters of Richland Creek, which feeds into Lake Junaluska. Another child who was with this girl was unable to affect a rescue. The little girl drowned.For some time thereafter, there existed a state of confusion around the scene of this terrible and horrifying accident. Highways became jammed with traffic. There were the curious ones, the sympathizers, those willing but not instructed in ways of rescue and/or recovery of his fellow men, and those who criticized, yet did little. This event brought to focus the facts that there were those who were concerned but who lacked direction.A small group of men, many of whom were combat veterans, decided that there should be some effort made to organize man power into a controllable unit. The formation of the Haywood County Rescue Squad was the result.The first meeting was called on July 2, 1958. The response was gratifying. Mr. J. Hardin Howell served as a legal advisor to the group. One of the first actions was to incorporate the Haywood County Rescue Squad under the laws of North Carolina. The business of the Squad was to be handled by the Board of Directors. This Board consists of five members, elected annually by the membership. The activities and actual working of the Squad would be under the direction of officers, made of the Squad members, elected annually by the membership. The men who organized and ran the Squad, known as Charter Members, have now retired.An intensive course of study in First Aid was undertaken at once. Through the years, no person was allowed to take part in Squad activities, unless he or she has obtained Standard and Advanced Red Cross First Aid Certification. There were some members who obtained Red Cross First Aid Instructor certification and taught the course locally and across Western North Carolina.
During the 1960’s, we operated as a rescue squad providing medical care as trained by the American Red Cross guidelines. The Squad was organized as an entire county Rescue Squad. Equipment and man power was available from Canton and from Waynesville. When conditions warranted, the entire man power and equipment were made available and used as needed. The first monies that this group obtained were through solicitation from the public at large. The Board decided early that good equipment would be the most economical in the long run, and consequently purchased good equipment and new vehicles as funds become available.Over the years as needs increased, the members of Haywood County Rescue Squad responded accordingly obtaining higher training and more up to date equipment. In the late 1960’s early 1970’s, through the urging of two of our local doctors, Dr. Ralph Feichter and Dr. Ernie Goodwin, this group undertook the task of training to be Mobile Intensive Care Technicians. This group of men who trained to be Mobile Intensive Care Technicians, later to be known as Paramedics, were the first unit in the nation. For 20 years, the Haywood County Rescue Squad provided paramedic services, as primary provider, to Haywood County. These groups of individuals were the forefathers of the Emergency Medical Services program as it exists today.During the early 1990’s the need was seen for the county government to take the role of providing a paramedic service as primary provider and the Haywood County Rescue Squad to be the back up service. This action was due to the greater volume of calls that increased beyond the scope of volunteer work.Today, Haywood County Rescue Squad continues in its tradition of providing services to the people of Haywood County through responding as back up paramedic service to Haywood County Emergency Medical Services, and continues to provide rescue services. The Haywood County Rescue Squad has always been a leader not only in this county, but across the state and nation in the advancement of rescue and emergency services. Not only were we the first paramedics in the nation, we were the first Level One Swiftwater Rescue Team in the state of North Carolina. Haywood County Rescue Squad not only responds to our immediate county, but through affiliation with the Western North Carolina Association of Rescue Squads and North Carolina Association of Rescue and Emergency Medical Services, we assist other squads in neighboring areas as the need arises.
For almost 50 years, Haywood County Rescue Squad has provided emergency and rescue services to this county for no charge. Our budget now consists of United Way funds for day-to-day operation expenses; contributions from the County Government for insurance. We rely a lot on the generosity of the community in the form of donations, memorials, and fundraisers to help us with training of personnel and new equipment.